RDNO directors take stock of starling fight

Funding to fight a nuisance bird could take flight.

The Regional District of North Okanagan plans to remain involved in the valley-wide starling control program as a way of supporting farmers and protecting the environment.

“Clearly it’s an effective process,” said director Doug Dirk.

Starlings were brought to North America from Europe in 1890 and are now firmly established across the continent.

Often seen in huge swarms, the species can cause substantial damage to fruit crops as well as at cattle feedlots.

“They will fly 50 to 60 kilometres from roost to feeding sites,” said Connie Bielert, starling control program administrator.

It’s believed starlings generate about $4 million in losses a year for Okanagan farmers.

Beyond economics, starlings carry a number of diseases which can be harmful to humans and they have displaced native songbirds.

Since the program began in 2003, the number of starlings trapped in the Okanagan has climbed from 15,369 to 78,360 in 2011. Of those, 29,281 were in the North Okanagan.

Starlings that are caught are put down with the use of C02, stored in freezers and sold as food to breeders of hawks and falcons.

The goal for 2013 is to increase public awareness about how to deter starlings from nesting in building ledges, birdhouses, warehouses, open rafters and dryer vents.

“If we can block nesting sites, that will make a huge difference in the population,” said Bielert.

Residents are also being encouraged to leave traps alone when they find them.

RDNO has provided the program with $25,000 a year and future contributions will be discussed as part of the 2013 budget process.

However, director Rick Fairbairn says he supports the initiative after it helped a strawberry grower in rural Lumby fight off starlings.

“It saved most of his crop,” said Fairbairn.


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