So, you’ve got a bird problem. Netting is a pain and is expensive, noise makers don’t work very well and the birds keep coming. What do you do? Most people’s go to is the gun. Shoot the birds and you minimise the crop damage by killing some of the pests and scaring the rest away due to their mates being killed or the noise created. How effective is this method in reality?
Many in the know believe that shooting is not and in fact could result in more damage not less. Here is what Trudy Sharp from the Invasive Plants and Animals Commitee has to say;
Shooting as a lethal method can be effective in reducing localised populations of birds when low numbers are involved. However, it is labour intensive, costly and rarely effective in achieving long-term reductions in bird numbers or associated damage. Other birds will often move into an area to take the place of those that are killed. Also, some species of bird, particularly parrots, learn to avoid shooters.
• Shooting may actually increase the damage levels in some crops, where birds may drop the fruit or seed head they are feeding on when scared off, and then attack a new one on their return.
• Control of pest birds must be implemented in accordance with any relevant State, Territory and Commonwealth legislation. Permits may be required for the control of some species. Contact the relevant State/Territory fauna agency for further details. [ T. Sharp for IPAC]
Even across the world, the experts are saying;
“Shooting can be effective as an aid to scaring, but only when used as part of a wider bird scaring programme. There is little objective evidence to demonstrate that lethal shooting has a greater scaring effect than non-lethal shooting e.g. by firing blanks, although it is widely reported to be the case by practitioners.” [Natural Resources Dept, Wales. UK] Further to this, bird carcasses have a scaring effect for some species (crow, pigeon, but only when the carcass is in good condition, so limiting the effectiveness over time. As for reducing the numbers of birds via this method proves futile as the bird numbers vastly outgrow the numbers taken out by shooting them.
Costs associated with shooting has not been quantified, however anecdotal evidence of total costs when taking into consideration, cost of ammunition, firearms, licensing, wages and time add up to be significant over the course of a growing season. Not to mention that some pest bird species are also protected and carry significant fines if agriculturists are found to be shooting them.
Shooting is the most commonly used control technique. Results indicate that shooting is generally used in combination with other control techniques, and alone is thought to be ineffective against pest birds. A combination of control techniques is thought to be the key to effectively reducing bird damage, and to date, reliance on any single control technique has not revealed to be effective until now. The Agrilaser Autonomic, when used regularly has proven to be cost efficient and effective against most bird species of up to 96%.
Reference: Bird Damage to the Wine Grape Industry, John Tracey Glen Saunders. VERTEBRATE PEST RESEARCH UNIT NSW AGRICULTURE October, 2003