Tips to assist bird battle

A two-year public outreach and starling nest disruption program has been launched

Starlings are an invasive species that cause significant damage to agricultural crops and the environment.

Starlings are an invasive species that cause significant damage to agricultural crops and the environment.

The campaign against an invasive bird species continues to take flight in the North Okanagan.

The B.C. Grapegrowers Association and members of the Starling Control Program’s management committee are carrying out a two-year public outreach and starling nest disruption program.

“In addition to educating the public about the importance of the trapping program, landowners in rural and urban areas are encouraged to identify, reduce, and block starling nesting sites,” said Karin Blythe, with the program.

“Starlings are adept at establishing sites in nooks and crannies in buildings which can damage buildings, create fire hazards, and clog gutters and drainpipes.”

Starlings are a non-native, invasive species and are not protected by the B.C. Wildlife Act, and property owners are urged to prevent them from breeding successfully.

The starling was deliberately introduced to North America in the 1890s and it is ranked as one of the continent’s 100 most invasive species.

“They are one of the most common and widespread birds in North America, with a population exceeding 200 million,” said Blythe.

“Each year, the starling destroys millions of dollars of livestock feed and crops. They particularly like fruits with high fructose content. Okanagan fruit growers and Fraser Valley blueberry farmers have been plagued with starling flocks which can decimate a third of a crop.”

Starlings also compete with native cavity-nesting birds such as bluebirds, flickers, woodpeckers, purple martins, and wood ducks for nest sites, and can have severe impacts on local populations of native cavity-nesting species.

Starlings nest in holes or cavities almost anywhere, including tree cavities, birdhouses, and holes in buildings or cliff faces.

“Denying starlings places to roost or breed inside cities, towns, and farms will help manage the populations,” said Blythe.

“Females generally lay two clutches each year and each clutch generally consists of five eggs. So for every starling female taken out of breeding circulation, 11 birds have been effectively removed from the breeding cycle.”

Prevent nesting and roosting

Install barriers on ledges, and cover the undersides of rafters with sheet metal, wood or stucco wire.

Entry holes for nesting boxes should be smaller than one-and-a-half inches. Ensure that the nesting boxes do not have perches which are not necessary to most native species.

Install commercial vent guards or screens.

Seal up holes

Starlings love to nest in crevices and holes, so it’s a great practice to seal any holes in your buildings that are larger than one inch. Use wood, quarter-inch hardware cloth, aluminum or other sturdy material, as light material such as bird netting or rags will not keep determined starlings out.

Tree roosts

When roosts occur in a small number of landscape trees near homes or along streets, thinning branches from the trees used by birds will usually disperse them.

Make needed repairs

Replace any loose shingles or siding, fix soffits that are open, and repair broken windows.

Agricultural activities

Farmers can help reduce damage by keeping their farms clear of food (i.e. burying unwanted fruit rather than dumping it on the ground)

For more information, go to www.grapegrowers.bc.ca.