Help, Starlings - digest of responses

Subject: Help, Starlings - digest of responses
From: Donald Glasco <>
Date: Mon, 4 Nov 1996 07:55:05 +1100
FYI. The following was posted on ecolog.
Don Glasco <>
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>From  Sat Nov  2 10:36 EST 1996
Date:         Fri, 1 Nov 1996 12:59:01 -0800
Sender: "Ecological Society of America: grants, jobs, news" 
Subject:      Help, Starlings - digest of responses
To: Multiple recipients of list ECOLOG-L <>
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Content-Length: 7885

I posted a request for information on starling control methods August 1.
The responses that I received follow this message.

I  used the world-Wide Web and other resources to find information on
long-term methods of controlling pest birds ("blackbirds", "pigeons", etc.),
using habitat modification, limiting access to roosting sites, food, water,
etc.  I will e-mail a 6 page file of these methods, with a short bibliography,
to interested persons on request.

Mike Marsh     <>
Environmental Analyst/Senior Environmental Employee
US EPA, Region 10, Seattle, Washington

* * * * *
     Nicholas Komar <>

I have been studying starling roosting behavior in relation to their
potential as reservoir hosts of human diseases, in particular eastern
equine encephalitis virus.  Massive communal roosting of starlings (in
Massachusetts, anyway) begins quite early in the summer, around the
beginning of June.  Most of these birds are juveniles.  Presumably, the
adults remain on their widely dispersed breeding territories to raise
subsequent broods.  Thus, perhaps the nocturnal roost site may be a
target for population reducing measures in the early summer. . . Individual
starlings are well known to  switch roost sites from time to time
(references provided upon request),  usually going from one phragmites
patch to another, some miles away.   Thus, one method to displace a
nocturnal roost site  would be to use scare tactics to disperse birds from
one or more roost  sites until a desireable phragmites patch is utilized by
the uprooted  birds. . ., a "man-made" phragmites patch can be  created .
 . This method alone does not reduce populations, and the birds will
return to their preferred feeding sites daily.  However, once at the
desireable phragmites patch, intervention methods may be employed. .
[suggests] the  construction of a "floodlight trap".. . . A three-walled hut
is built at the edge of  the roosting site.  After dark, a floodlight inside the
hut is turned on,  and the starlings are roused from their perches.
Apparently, they will  fly en masse toward the light in the hut.  Workers
then trap them in the hut and then process them accordingly.  I have an
old reference to this  technique somewhere in my files.

Nick Komar
Harvard School of Public Health

[Editorial note: for protection of wetland values, contact the responsible
state agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S.
Army Corp of Engineers before attempting any wetland modifications
such as planting phragmites.]

Maia     Maia, Eric <>
I don't know if it would work, but I wonder if it's possible to use
mechanical controls rather than chemical - i.e. nets/traps - without risking
native species. I would assume that the most effective places to do this
would be the feedlots, etc.
Eric Maia

[Editorial note: starling traps are being (or have been) used in Skagit
County with limited success.  They require daily maintenance.  A design
is featured in Johnson and Glahm (1984).]

Paul D.. Curtis <>

The only practical long-term solution is to exclude birds from buildings
where they cause problems.  This is VERY difficult in dairy operations,
particularly in barns with movable walls for ventilation.
For warehouses and grain-storage buildings, birds can be excluded with
persistance.  All windows and other ventilation openings must be
screened.  Doors should be covered with plastic strips that form a solid
wall from the top of the frame to ground level.  This allows easy access
for people and equipment, but forms a bird-proof barrier.  These type of
doors are often used in zoo aviaries where there is high traffic.

Good sanitation is essential.  Spilled grain from torn sacks should be
cleaned up immediately.  This is also important from the standpoint of
rodent management.

Where possible, netting or porcupine wire should be used to limit nesting
access.  New buildings should be designed to reduce bird and rodent
problems.  Wildlife biologists need to be consulting with engineers during
the design phase, rather than trying to fix problems later.

Paul D. Curtis
Extension Wildlife Specialist
Cornell University
Phone:  607-255-2835

S. Hill<>

Here in Bowling Green, Ohio we are battling  the birds every night... the
droppings are so bad and the noise keeps my  son awake.  I use to live
in Huntsville, Alabama and I remember they sprayed the  birds with some
sort of detergent in the evening... this caused them to  freeze to death I
believe, and then the dead birds were removed from the  ground.  We
are at wits end here  and I hate to cut down my 200 year old maple.
BTW, I don't see any other  birds like I use to and I can't enjoy my cool
northern Ohio evenings  anymore.  They began roosting in July this year.

Susan Hill

[Editorial note: I understand that Tergitrol, a detergent used in spraying
roosts, is no longer registered as a bird control agent by EPA.  A problem
was that native birds roosting with the starlings were killed in mild
conditions, while the starlings survived, so that the method simply left
more starlings and fewer native species. ]

Douglas A. James <>

Nick Komar's observations agree with mine in central Illinois and
northwestern Arkansas.  The roosts certainly do form in the summer,
especially young starlings, but also cowbirds that never have nesting
responsibilities, plus other species of blackbirds notably grackles.

These summer roosts in Illinois and Arkansas are small and scattered in
tree groves in residential areas, parks, etc. (seldom in rural areas)
around town and coalesce as the season progresses becoming larger
and fewer in number by fall.  The fall roosts change location quickly
when the leaves fall.  The roosts then move to the winter location where
there is more cover such as in Arkansas conifer or cedar stands, cane
thickets planted decoratively around town. or low dense deciduous
scrub.  In Illinois the blackbirds usually depart southward in the fall and
the starlings move "indoors"--church steeples, barn lofts, water towers,

In NW Arkansas the starling-blackbirds-robin communal night-roosts
often form in town where there is a summer heronry dominated by Little
Blue Herons and Cattle Egrets.  These summer heronries serve as the
focal point for the blackbird summer roosts and the blackbirds remain
after the herons migrate south for winter. . . .The only roost abatement
activities I have assisted have been of the habitat modification type.  This
involves either removing all the roosting trees or even extensive thinning
has been enough to discourage the birds.

We always take these measures at seasons when the roosts are not
being used.  I have not been been involved in attempts too move the birds
out of an active roost.  When I am asked about this I always refer the
request to Thurman Booth, USDA Animal Damage Control office in Little
Rock (tel:501-324-5382).  That federal office is specialized in moving
blackbird populations away from the extensive rice fields in eastern

A few years ago the heronry in Fayetteville was located right next to the
main chicken hatchery of the Campbell Soup Plant, and as happens the
heronry also became the site of the starling-blackbird roost that winter.
There was a big worry about diseases from the wild birds entering the
hatchery so the heronry and roost trees were all cut down in the spring
when the blackbirds had dispersed and the heronry had not yet started
again.  There is a big lawn there now.
Douglas A. James                          tel:  501-575-6364
University of Arkansas

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