Science Into Practice - Wood pigeon damage control

The wood pigeon Columba palumbus is a major agricultural pest in the UK, feeding on a range of arable crops including peas, brassicas and leafy salads. HDC project FV 426 reviewed the evidence for damage levels, the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of deterrents and other management techniques and emerging controls.

Through the review, project leader Dr Dave Parrott and teams at the National Wildlife Management Centre and the Animal & Plant Health Agency found a number of action points for damage management.

It showed that several methods from deterrents, exclusion, habitat management, planting, sacrificial crops and shooting all made an impact, but ensuring deterrent techniques are unpredictable, threatening, reinforced and/or switched with alternative deterrents was necessary for habituation to be delayed.

Sacrificial crops needed to be kept away from vulnerable fields, ensuring sufficient resources were available throughout the vulnerable crop period. Susceptible crops should be kept away from vulnerable areas - next to woodland, tree lines or in isolated fields. The proposal to cover high-value susceptible crops - poly-tunnel, net, fleece - and extend the time that crops are covered was also a preventive method.

Use of a mixed shooting strategy incorporating highly visible shooters to maximise the scaring effect and numbers of birds deterred from fields, and concealed shooters to reduce wood pigeon numbers, should be concentrated during summer rather than winter months.

Local wood pigeon breeding success could also be helped by controlling nests and eggs and coordinating efforts with neighbouring growers.

Horticultural Development Company

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