A new book Managing Bird damage to fruit and other horticultural crops launched today by the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Eric Abetz indicates that the cost of birds to the industry is $313 million per annum.
Authors John Tracey, Mary Bomford, Quentin Hart, Glen Saunders and Ron Sinclair have done a brilliant job pulling together a mass of information on birds, the damage they do and what can be done to reduce their impact. What was clear from the seminar leading up to today's launch was that (1) the cost of birds is much higher than most people expected and (2) research into new methods of control has been largely overlooked.
Data indicates that in the nut industry, up to 22% of crops can be lost to bird damage. It seems extraordinary to me so little research has been supported by industry over the years, given the levels of damage reported. Discussion at the seminar tended to indicate that other problems are occupying the attention of horticulturists, most notably at the moment being the lack of water. The problem is also highly variable and caused by a mix of exotic and native species.
The biggest message coming from today's speakers was to take a strategic approach. Simply killing birds is rarely effective. For example, in Africa a billion Quelea (pictured) maybe be killed annually with no discernible impact on the population or the damage they do. This species has been kept as a pet in Australia by the way, although it is thought that none are left in the country. It is certainly a species that import risk assessment should keep out, now that better processes are in place for assessing risk.
Growers should get a hold of a copy of the book, which can obtained for free from the Bureau of Rural Sciences.