starling control methods_brochure_Final Draft (Read-Only)

starling control methods_brochure_Final Draft (Read-Only)

Banning Banning the the bird


Controlling Controlling starlings starlings with


trapping trapping and and other other management





Pest Bird Control

a challenge for every landholder

One of the main pest bird species on Eyre Peninsula is the common starling,

which threatens both agricultural productivity and native ecology. They defecate

on sheep and potentially devalue the wool, foul up stock feed and water

troughs and also eat beneficial insects and other soil organisms. They compete

aggressively with native birds for food and shelter and spread diseases through

parasites and faeces.

Eyre Peninsula Natural Resources Management Board has been researching

some starling control techniques that are relatively cost-effective and easy to

apply on the farm or in town. The study incorporated various aspects including

habitat use surveys, trap trials, trough modifications and other deterrents, and

physiological trials to try to find a weak link in the starling’s defenses that may

be exploited to develop a control method specific to this species. This brochure

will help you plan how to control starlings on your property.

Bird control by its nature is difficult. There are a number of features common to

pest bird species that make applying control methods effectively very difficult.

Birds are notoriously wary of new things within their environment, and will

relocate to a new area if something new appears. Birds can also travel long

distances very quickly,across water bodies and

disappear into dense vegetation swiftly leaving

little trace of their whereabouts.

Many bird species which become pest species

are generalist species - they have wide diets,

broad habitat preferences and are tolerant of

a range of environmental conditions. There is

rarely one single control method that is

effective in controlling feral birds - a

combination of a number of methods spread

out throughout the year and over consecutive

years is usually preferable to a single,

seasonal control effort using one method. And

any control plan will be more effective if it is

carried out by a group of neighbouring

landholders, rather than individuals in


Common or European

Starlings Sturnus vulgaris

Common starlings were introduced into South Australia in Adelaide in the 1840s

for pest control and also to help settlers from Europe feel more at home in their

new surroundings. The species has since spread westward and reached the west

coast of Eyre Peninsula around the 1950s. They have been the focus of a large

control program in Western Australia since the 1960s, aimed at preventing the

spread of the starlings into the biologically diverse and highly productive south

western region of Western Australia. Current control methods for starlings include

trapping, shooting, nest removal and prevention and habitat modification. There

are also numerous methods that can be applied to limit the effect of starlings on

both infrastructure and native flora and fauna.

Methods of Starling Control

There are only a few methods of lethal control authorised for use against starlings

in South Australia:

• Trapping

• Shooting

• Nest, egg and juvenile removal

Poisons targeted specifically at starlings are not currently available in Australia

because of the risk they will harm non-target species. Poisons should not be used

in your starling control program unless under direct supervision by scientific

authorities and necessary permits have been obtained.

Reducing The Effects of Starlings

These methods will not kill starlings or remove them from the breeding population,

however they will help to reduce the effect of starlings on your farm or

home, your stock or pets and native flora and fauna:

• Stock trough modification to reduce water availability for starlings

• Habitat modification such as revegetation or vegetation protection to

make habitat less suitable for starlings

• Blocking up of nest sites to prevent breeding

• Removal of roost sites, if possible

• Use of commercial audio-visual deterrents





Trapping starlings:

making the most of your traps

Traps are available to landholders free of charge from your local EPNRM office (see

contacts details on the last page of this brochure). There are a number of things

you can do to help make the most of your trapping program:

Trapping is best carried out during the season when birds are found in large flocks.

On Eyre Peninsula, this is traditionally from early summer until early autumn but is

dependent on the seasonal conditions.

There are a few different trap designs available and each has its pros and cons.

EPNRM officers can discuss which trap might suit your needs best.

Ideally, traps should contain a lure. This helps to attract birds into the trap and

increases the number of birds captured at any one time. The best option is live lure

birds. Lure birds are of the same species to be captured, and are housed within a

lure cage to protect them from predators. To ensure maximum effectiveness of lure

birds, they must be kept happy with food, water and shelter, and their cages

should be cleaned and replenished - at the very least - every two days. Other lures

that have been found to be effective are food sources, like grain and fruit, and


Traps should be placed where

starlings are feeding or

watering. Placing traps at roost

sites is ineffective because

roosts are sites of rest and

information sharing; birds will

not be interested in traps.

Other food sources should be

removed. If required, free feed

for a few days beforehand by

leaving a scattering of grain or

fruit where you intend to place

the trap or leave the trap open

for starlings to come and go

freely. This gets the birds used

to the bait and going into the


5 The locations of your traps should

be evaluated after two weeks of

trapping. If traps are no longer

catching birds in their current

location, move the traps to

another location or remove them

for a few weeks. Starlings become

very suspicious if their mates

continually go missing!


Inspect your traps often. If traps

are on uneven ground, or if there

are large gaps in the paneling,

trapped birds may escape.


Euthanasia and disposal of pest

species is a sensitive issue. For

more information on how to

dispose of starlings and other pest

species humanely, please contact

your local EPNRM office.

A Modified Australian Crow Trap, commonly

used to capture starlings


While shooting is generally not an

effective method to kill a large number of

starlings, it can be used to deter flocks

from roosting in certain areas, such as

around sheds and homes. This will

probably require more than one episode

of shooting, usually best done at dusk

when the birds are coming in to roost.

You can use either a shotgun with

number seven shot (used for clay target

shooting) or a .22 calibre rifle with


Although this may deter the birds from returning, it is possible other starling flocks will

move in to take their place.

Managing starlings… On your farm.

Removing resources is the best way to reduce the presence of starlings on your

farm. If you have a feedlot, try to make food and water troughs “starling-proof”.

There are many techniques available to land managers to accomplish this


• PVC pipe over trough edges, creating rounded edges that starlings find difficult

to grip when drinking

• Lowering the water level of troughs so birds cannot reach the water. Troughs

not in use should also be emptied

• Make sure your taps, hoses, troughs and tanks are all in good working order

and free of leaks. Puddles of water are perfect starling swimming pools!

• Lengths of dripper hose/pipe on fencing wire, creating rolling perches which

prevent birds perching on fences

• Anti-perch devices for eaves, guttering and other surfaces which prevent birds

from landing and perching

• Model birds of prey, which

when placed in different

locations around a feedlot

or yard, make the site

unpleasant to visit.

• If you have particular crops

you want to protect from

starlings, you might like to

try using a commercial birdscaring

gas gun. These are

used to deter starlings from

vineyards and other

horticultural crops.

A modified trough with poly-pipe to prevent birds



Successful starling control programs combine a number of different control

methods and operate throughout the year. For example, combining trapping in

the summer flocking season with nest site control during the breeding season

will be more successful than a single control method applied once a year.

Other techniques for managing starlings

Habitat management

In a similar way to removing food and water sources, removing breeding habitat

or nests can be a very effective technique for managing starling numbers on your

property and within a district. Starlings return to the same area each year to

breed, and their young will also use the same habitat as their parents. If there are

starlings breeding on your property it is recommended that:

• Nests around sheds, houses and machinery be removed as soon as they are

detected. If possible, the adults should be eliminated and any eggs or young

also removed.

• Use mesh, wire, tennis balls or other materials to block holes that might be

used as nest sites. You should not block holes or hollows in vegetation as these

may be used as nest sites for

native species.

• Revegetate! Starlings will nest

primarily in small patches of

vegetation which are degraded

and have little understorey.

Fence patches of vegetation off

and rehabilitate remnant

vegetation to improve its

quality. If possible, make the

patches bigger or more

connected to other patches.

Starlings are fringe dwellers,

because they can find food and

shelter easily on the fringes of

areas of vegetation.

• Plant native species of trees

around your property. Large

trees like Aleppo pine, Norfolk

pine or large Eucalypt species

provide roosts for starlings

during summer.

Starlings will nest in hollows in native

vegetation with a poor understory.

Natural Resources Management Officers undertaking trough

modifications on a property west of Ceduna

For more information on

starlings and starling

control, please contact

your local NRM board


Port Lincoln

(08) 8626 7555


(08) 8687 9275

Streaky Bay

(08) 8626 1108


(08) 8625 3060


(08) 8628 2077


(08) 8640 3481

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