15193: Realizing the potential of successful starling surveillance and control

    The Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is one of the most invasive bird pests worldwide and aside from incursions of completely new exotic species into the state, starlings have recently been identified as the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia's (DAFWA) number one priority invasive animal.   Starlings are widespread and established in eastern Australia. They are a significant economic pest, causing severe damage to high-value fruit crops. They also consume and spoil livestock feed, disperse weeds via their droppings and cause considerable fouling of infrastructure when present in close association with people.   There is also considerable cost incurred removing accumulated starling waste that poses a breeding ground for organisms that can cause disease in humans and livestock. The starling also has the potential to impact on the State's biodiversity by competing for tree hollows with native birds.

    On-going surveillance and control of starlings in WA and at the border of WA and South Australia has kept the number of starlings in WA low. However, it is certain that starlings have the capacity to establish in WA and become a significant pest of agriculture, the environment and public amenity. Without ongoing surveillance and control, prime agricultural and horticultural areas could support close to 12 million starlings within 30 years, conservatively costing the WA economy $42.8 million per year.  Currently, the main methods of surveillance and control are live trapping and shooting. The most effective method for trapping starlings is in specialized traps that contain live lure birds. Live birds are significantly more effective at attracting starlings into traps compared with alternative forms of lures.   Current evidence indicates that small numbers of starlings are potentiallly going undetected in a 22,000 km square area of WA which consists of highly suitable habitat for starlings. DAFWA currently has 40 starling traps containing separate cages for the live lure birds in operation on the south coast between Condingup and Munglinup, with additional trapping conducted at Eucla and across the WA/SA border.   DAFWA has an additional 40 starling traps that currently cannot be deployed due to the absence of internal lure cages that meet specific animal welfare requirements (see Guidelines for the Captive Management of Starlings, Kirkpatrick 2007) which this project seeks to address.

    Investment: $ 19 000
    In-kind contribution: $ 34 894
    Delivery organisation: BirdLife Australia (Western Australia)
    Project duration: April 2016 - March 2017
    Location: Shire of Esperance, Shire of Ravensthorpe
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