Bird Control News
||Neophobia - the fear of the new - is important in pest control because attempt to control them generally involve changing their environments. Recent work by Richard M. Sibly and Andrew J. Brigham (University of Reading, England) suggests that the extent of neophobia in animals may be genetically determined as it can affect survival. In other words certain populations of pests may be more or less neophobic depending upon the circumstances their ancestors endured.
How does neophobia relate to bird control ?
|In high risk environments in the wild neophobia would be generally advantageous as it would tend to reduce predation even at the cost of obtaining some food. In domestic circumstances strong neophobia would be very disadvantageous because the risk of predation is far lower and so the reduction in consumption of food and subsequent lowered breeding success would outweigh the advantage of predator avoidance. In the laboratory Sibly and Brigham found that wild rats exhibited far more neophobia than domesticated rats. Changes in physical environment had more effect than changes in food. If neophobia is genetically linked then it is likely that the amount of neophobia in a population can change over time depending upon the changing circumstances.
One scenario could work like this. It may be that if a large amount of free food such as a new cattle feedlot is made available to a population of wild starlings, then the few starlings that are naturally less neophobic ignore the new buildings and people and eat more food, breed better, and gradually their genes begin to swamp the wild population. If they bred twice as many offspring as the wilder birds then in just five or six generations (two years) the tamer starlings would be in the majority. In other words they would not so much learn to be unafraid of the feedlot as breed themselves into being unafraid of it (and also dependent upon it). This seems to coincide with our experience of Welsh and English West Country feedlots where the starling problem appears to have built up over the last five years since maize silage has become popular. The practice in some parts of America of providing nesting boxes for hawks on trees surrounding the feedlots, would seem to us to be an excellent way of reversing the trend for the starling population to lose their neophobia. An active hawk population is a useful reinforcement to Helikites. Also it is noticable that feral and town pigeons are far harder to scare than fully wild woodpigeons. In our experience wild woodpigeons seldom ever get used to Helikites they simply stay a certain distance depending upon their need for food and the food value of the crop that is being protected. They seem to learn very little (they are also extensively eaten by crows when nestlings and hawks when adult). Feral pigeons come closer immediately and also stay that distance long term. A mainly genetic, as opposed to a cultural learning explaination to habituation would suppose that a few of any wild population would be very tame and a few abnormally fearful. This again is borne out by our observations that in a population of hundreds of woodpigeons there is sometimes one that edges closer, perhaps by walking out from a hedge instead of flying. If habituation was mainly by learning then the others would follow, but they do not. Each bird seems to have its own genetically in-built distance that it will stay from a flying Helikite. Hence our chart of distances scared for various bird species on certain crops. This is not to say that habituation and also fear cannot be caused by learning, especially by more intelligent birds such as corvids, but it seems to be a minor cause compared to genetic imprinting.