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October 2007

Control Program to Reduce Damage by Starlings

USDA Wildlife Services
(517) 336-1928

In Michigan, starlings often congregate at dairies and feedlots in the winter, causing damage by consuming and contaminating feed, and contributing to the spread of diseases that are harmful to cattle. Starlings also may cause a decrease in milk production. USDA-Wildlife Services (WS) has developed a program to reduce the damage by starlings at dairies and feedlots.

The Starling Control Program uses the toxicant DRC-1339 to remove starlings from dairy farms. In order to get the starlings to consume the toxicant, WS provides a pre-bait to producers. The pre-bait is to get the starlings to feed reliably at a certain time and place. When the birds are reliably feeding on the bait, a WS employee will deliver bait treated with the toxicant and be on site while it is available to the birds. The WS employee will monitor the bait to observe how the starlings are feeding and also prevent non-target species from consuming the bait. At the end of the day, the employee will remove any remaining bait.

The toxicant DRC-1339 is registered for use in these situations by USDA employees only. DRC-1339 acts by destroying kidney function and starlings that consume it begin to show signs of lethargy in about 6 to 8 hours and die within 24 hours. By that time, virtually all the toxicant in their body has been metabolized, eliminating the possibility of secondary poisoning. Starlings are quite sensitive to DRC-1339 while mammals and hawks are generally resistant. Therefore, hazards to non-target animals are very low.

There are two keys to a successful farm baiting project. The first key is that control efforts are more effective in cold and snowy weather. The cold weather increases the starlings metabolism and causes an increased need to feed. Snow cover eliminates other natural food sources for the birds. The second key is to establish good bait acceptance. This involves providing a supply of bait in the same place everyday until the birds are feeding on it reliably. Producers are responsible for pre-baiting the starlings, but WS will provide the bait and help select the bait site.

The birds that consume the treated bait die overnight, probably at their roost site. This could be on the farm but it could also be on neighboring properties. Although the dead birds do not pose a threat to humans or pets, it is recommended that you advise your neighbors of this so as to avoid unnecessary concern. WS will advise agencies such as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Agriculture, MSU Extension, the local health department, and local law enforcement.

Where good bait acceptance has been established, significant starling reductions of 75% to 95% have been achieved in most cases. However, the results can not be guaranteed. There is a cost to producers of $500 in the Lower Peninsula and $600 in the Upper Peninsula. If producers are interested in the starling control program, they can contact USDA Wildlife Services at (517) 336-1928.





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