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Wild Bird Control: Why and How

by 5m Editor
9 April 2007, at 12:00am

By Frank Jones, Associate Director - Extension, Centre of Excellence for Poultry Science - University of Arkansas and published in Avian Advice. Wild birds can be a nagging problem on any poultry farm.

Introduction

Wild birds can create a mess with their droppings, consume feed, contaminate feed and damage insulation (Berry, 2003).

The Author

Dr. Frank Jones
Extension Section Leader
Wild birds have also been shown to carry Newcastle disease, coccidiosis, Salmonella, fowl pox, West Nile Virus, fowl cholera, Mycoplasma galisepticum (MG), round worms, tape worms, Northern Fowl Mites and several other maladies affecting poultry (McLean, 1994). Clearly, wild birds are undesirable in or around poultry houses. However, before beginning any effort to control wild birds, it is important to understand effective approaches and the legal limits.

Controlling wild birds legally

It may be tempting to take what appears to be the quickest, easiest way to eliminate wild birds (i.e. shoot them, trap them, or poison them). Yet, this approach carries some heavy legal penalties (USFWS, 1992).

All wild birds (except pigeons, house sparrows and starlings) are protected by federal and state laws. You may NOT trap, kill or possess protected species without federal and state permits (USFWS, 2002). Furthermore, regulatory officials are SERIOUS about enforcing these laws.

One Georgia cattle company took the direct approach and spread poison corn around a pond on their property to kill nuisance birds. The tainted corn resulted in the death of over 3,000 birds of various species. The cattle company paid fines totaling over $265,000. In addition, individuals involved in the incident paid $15,000 each, served 60 days in home confinement, performed 160 hours of community service and served one year of supervised release (USEPA, 2005). In short, direct approaches may be hazardous in many ways!

The good news is that many wild bird problems in or around poultry houses are caused by pigeons, house sparrows or starlings, NONE of which are covered by these regulations. Yet it is important to remember that poultry producers are involved in FOOD production and any approach used on poultry farms has the potential to harm flock performance as well as produce residues in meat or eggs.

All wild birds (except pigeons, house sparrows and starlings) are protected by federal and state laws.

You may NOT trap, kill or possess protected species without federal and state permits

General Wild Bird Control Methods

Remember that effective control of wild birds is an art, not a science. “One shot,” or “one size fits all” approaches are generally not effective. What eliminates a bird problem on one farm may not work at all on another. In addition, since wild birds survive by adapting to each situation, don't be surprised if your control efforts are only successful for a short time. The secret to solving bird problems is to consistently address the problem and to vary control tactics (USFWS, 1992). Wild bird control methods may be divided into general categories: active control methods and passive control methods. While active methods are designed to reduce or disperse large populations quickly and passive methods provide long-term management potential, a combination of methods is usually most effective.

Active control methods

Active control methods are those methods that result in reduction or dispersal of the wild bird populations. Effective, active control methods may be divided into five broad classifications: frightening, poisoning, trapping, shooting, and nest destruction (Booth, 1994.

While it is illegal to harm or capture protected bird species, it is not illegal to frighten them. Frightening devices such as bird distress calls, pyrotechnics, flashing lights, whirling shiny items, balloons, hawk or owl figures and a variety of other methods can effectively reduce bird concentrations in a given area. However, it is important not to get in a routine, successful operations depend on timing, persistence, organization and diversity in device used (Berry, 2003; Booth, 1994).

Although effective poisons for nuisance bird species exist, most of these toxicants are restricted use materials and can be toxic to humans. In addition, it is important to remember that use of these poisons means you are liable for the death of any birds consuming the poisons. Therefore, is very important to use poisons prudently and according to label directions.

There are numerous traps and trap designs available from a variety of sources. Most designs are live traps, which allow the user to free everything other than house sparrows, pigeons and starlings. When using traps, it is important to feed birds with the bait for a few days (prebait) prior to starting and to check traps often (Booth, 1994).

Shooting is not an effective means of destroying a large number of birds. Yet shooting can be an effective method of eliminating a few individual house sparrows, pigeons or starlings within a relatively small area. However, choosing the right weapon and location for shooting is obviously important (Booth, 1994, Byler, 2002).

Nest destruction can be an extremely effective method of reducing wild bird numbers. However, nests are often constructed in locations that are high above the ground to avoid predators, so nest destruction efforts can become very involved. In addition, nest destruction should be approached with caution since nest materials often contain many thousands of insects (especially mites) and possibly disease causing bacteria or viruses. It is important to avoid spreading these vermin and microbes to you or your flock (Booth, 1994). It is also important to quickly destroy nesting materials following removal to prevent reuse of the materials by other birds.

Wild bird control methods may be divided into general categories: active control methods and passive control methods. While active methods are designed to reduce or disperse large populations quickly and passive methods provide long-term management potential, a combination of methods is usually most effective.

Passive Control Methods

To survive, all wild animals (including birds) need the following four essential factors: space, food, shelter and water. Effective long-term control of wild birds involves limiting access to as many of these essential factors as possible (Bryan and Pease, 1991).

Space allows wild birds to rest, roost and relax while on the farm. Most birds prefer space that is high and protected from predators such as cats. Use of roosting spots should be discouraged by use of netting, sticky repellants, or “Porcupine wires” (Booth, 1994)

Since pigeons, house sparrows and starlings can feed on a wide variety of materials, it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate food sources on poultry farms. However, eliminate access to as many food sources as possible. Clean up spilled grain or feed. Reduce conditions that lead to multiplication of insects. Avoid planting trees that produce fruits that birds may eat near poultry houses (Bryan and Pease, 1991).

Trees also provide shelter for wild birds. In addition, wild birds will nest in the eaves or other cavities in poultry houses if given the chance. It is important to remove existing nesting materials and to cover or “plug” holes that allow wild birds access into poultry houses.

Water is essential for the survival of all animals. Although it is virtually impossible to limit the access of wild birds to every water source, it is important to ensure that areas around poultry houses are well drained. Standing water can encourage not only wild birds, but insect populations that could provide food or spread diseases (like mosquitoes).

Summary

Since wild birds have been shown to carry numerous diseases, internal parasites and external parasites, control is necessary. However, all avian species except house sparrows, pigeons and starlings are protected by state and federal migratory bird regulations. House sparrows, pigeons and starlings may be controlled by active or passive control methods. Active methods are designed to reduce large populations quickly, while passive methods provide long-term management potential.

March 2007