Bird control begins

Starlings are native to Europe and they are known for causing significant damage to B.C. agricultural crops.  - Royal B.C. Museum photo
Starlings are native to Europe and they are known for causing significant damage to B.C. agricultural crops.
— image credit: Royal B.C. Museum photo

There appears to be support for the ongoing battle against starlings.

Only nine people signed a petition opposing the Regional District of North Okanagan establishing a service to fund the starling control program. Given that 6,293 signatures were required to block the service, the function is now officially moving ahead.

“It enhances the ability of local farmers who have crops at risk,” said Rick Fairbairn, RDNO vice-chairperson, of the control program.

The service includes all municipalities and electoral areas within the regional district.

“At first, I wasn’t going to have Lumby in the program but I started talking to dairy farmers and other farmers and they said there’s a huge problem,” said director Kevin Acton.

“I also talked to residents and there is a concern about them destroying things.”

Starlings are not native to North America but since they were introduced from Europe in the 1890s, they have spread across the continent.

Travelling in large swarms, starlings can devastate  berries, tree fruits and vineyards, creating significant financial losses for growers.

“People who grow crops, and especially strawberries, have used this program,” said Fairbairn.

Starlings are also known to consume high-value crops and feed at cattle feedlots.

Program officials have previously stated that starling damage creates about $4 million in losses a year for Okanagan farmers.

Beyond the financial aspect, starlings displace native birds, destroying eggs and killing adults.

Through the program, residents are urged to become more aware of starlings because they frequently nest in urban settings before flying more than 60 kilometres to feed.

Residents are asked to identify and block nesting sites.

“They breed so prolifically,” said Fairbairn of starlings.

Through the program, starlings are trapped and sold as food to breeders of hawks and falcons. There were 17,708 starlings caught in the North Okanagan in 2013.


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