More Bird Pests

by Bill Monson

If Galesburg thinks it has a problem with crows and starlings, consider Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It's afflicted with Canadian geese which refuse to go back to Canada.

Geese are poor guests. They're ill-temperd and tear up lawns, fields and fairways and will nip at people and small animals. While their bite is rarely dangerous to humans, it can be a pain in the haunch to the unwary. And crop damage in Bucks County is expected to reach $350,000 this year. As a result, the county was Pennsylvania's first to hire a goose-control officer.

This isn't just a Pennsylvania problem, however. According to the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3.5 million Canadian geese have moved in permanently across the U.S.--and this flock increases 14 percent a year! When you consider the average adult bird poops up to 1.5 pounds a day, this is no trifling matter.

At airports, geese present a serious threat to aviation. That's why the Davenport airport tried the services of that Quad Cities falconer who offered to use his birds of prey on Galesaburg's crows and starlings. (And did he really get rid of the geese at Davenport?)

One big problem with Canadian geese is that they currently can't be exterminated. They're protected under the 1916 International Migratory Treaty--even though they don't migrate.

So the goose-busters are using dogs, chemical repellants, pyrotechnics, gosling relocation, and egg removal. Why not hunt them? Well, there's that 1916 treaty; and a lot of the geese choose to settle--are you ready?--in urban areas like office parks and golf courses. Besides, experts say hunting doesn't significantly reduce geese populations anyway.

So far, none of the other methods has proved effective. (Sound familiar?) One town's solution may simply move a flock across a municipal border--or from one fairway to another. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to reduce the resident flock by 1.2 million, so it will give states even more authority to smash eggs, remove goslings and even kill adults. Yet it admits that total eradication isn't really possible.

What's more, these resident geese attract migratory birds in spring and fall. Most of the commuters move on; but while they visit, that 1.5-pounds-per-day poop pile gets deeper and deeper. And some geese always stay, adding to the local flock and increasing its breeding capacity.

Fortunately, there are some things which can be done to discourage geese--like letting grass or shrubs grow to 18 inches high around ponds to help predators or to change the ground cover from grass to ivy. Golf courses can let their rough grow to U.S. Open-style heights.

Unfortunately, you can't do the same with tree dwellers like crows and starlings--unless you're willing to cut down every tree in downtown Galesburg. And that would only move the problem to other neighborhoods.

So hang on, Galesburg. Spring plowing will provide relief, and we can hope for a hard winter next year.

And just imagine how deep we'd be in bird poop if crows and starlings each crapped 1.5 pounds every day!

Uploaded to The Zephyr website April 17, 2002

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