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The Common Bird Pests

Picture of a Crow

Common crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Highly Intelligent and social, considered the "geniuses" of the bird world the smartest of all birds. Detrimental to both agriculture and property management (winter migration groups, can number in the tens of thousands). The most dangerous of the bird pest groups to a separated falcon (a sudden mobbing of 50 stiletto beaks can seriously injure a squadron member) Crow abatement projects are only for the most seasoned veterans of professional falconry (both falconers and squadron members). Crows are amazing survivors with their omnivores diet; fruit, grains, vegetables, carrion, rubbish, meat, they will hunt live prey as well (mice, rats, smaller birds, birds eggs, etc.) Can be trained to perform, fly even talk. A leading power animal in most Native American spirituality, and to some nations the crow is stronger than an eagle, falcon, or coyote. Lifespan can be 10-20 years.

Picture of a Rock Dove

Rock Dove/Pigeons (Columba livia)

Rock Doves/ pigeons are native to the Old World and brought by colonists for communication and as a food source. In their natural environment they nest on rock cliffs, however being a feral animal here in the US, they nest in buildings and are a nuisance. A breeding pair can have 4 broods a year; they nest and raise young all year (even winter). Their eggs hatch in about 3 weeks, and the average lifespan is 3-4 years. They are highly social, and thrive in large flocks of extended family. Diseases are transmitted easily between flocks. Some diseases are harmful and even deadly to people (histoplasmosis and cryptolococcus) and other animals (dairy cattle test positive on preliminary tuberculosis testing).

Picture of a European Starling

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

The European Starling is the most damaging bird pest to the agriculture wine, blueberry and among others, the raspberry industry. First brought to the US in the late 1800's, it is believed they were released at a wedding ceremony in Central Park NY. Large flocks crossed the Rockies in the 1930's and 40's, and moved on through the Sierra Nevada range by they 1970's and became a plague to agriculture all over the United States. Known as a detriment to many California farmers, European Starlings live in large flocks of 100 to 2,000 individuals and are identified by a swirling formation of a "dragon" in flight. They socialize with black birds and cowbirds to some degree, and their diet consists of insects, fruit, and grain. Their life expectancy is 2-4 years. Starlings roost in large colonies that can number in excess of 4,000 to 6,000 birds. In their original environment, Starlings are kept in control by the presence of Rooks, smaller crow-like birds that are absent from the New World.

Picture of an English Sparrow

English Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Nearly everyone knows this refugee from Europe. Imported to this country in 1850's to combat cankerworms, the English Sparrow, from a beginning of eight pairs released in New York, has spread from coast to coast. The hansom male is easily identified from the plain looking female. The bird is hardy, and its unusual fecundity results in four to nine eggs to a nest sometimes as often as three times a year. The English sparrow is not sociable except with its own kind. It is a gregarious bird, and often twenty to thirty nests will be located in a single tree or building. The nests are large, bulky masses of straw, grasses, paper scraps and feathers. The bird has been responsible for setting fires when a lighted cigarette butt was taken up and installed in the nest. Chiefly seedeaters, they are agricultural pests an can cause dry food storage warehouses to be shut down by County and State health inspectors.

Picture of a Great Tailed Grackle

Great Tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Another highly intelligent bird and they're expanding their territory greatly. The Great Tailed Grackle, originally a semitropical species, ranged from Central & South America through Mexico. Due to deforestation and development they have adopted cities and suburbs as their new environment to the detriment of some of their new hosts. In the last 75 years Great Tailed grackle groups have reached Washington, Idaho and Minnesota where a century ago they barely crossed the border of Arizona (1936) and Mexico. Great Tailed Grackles eat the eggs and young of other birds (including rare and threatened species) as well as insects, small animals, fish, lizards, fruit, vegetation, and grain. They have been observed dropping pecans on roadways for cars to break open so they can be eaten as well as turning on garden sprayers in dry climates for a drink.


Large gull populations can increase enterococcus and or feces bacteria at California beaches. A RAFS "impossible mission" project can improve water quality significantly. This technique was pioneered by RAFS in April 2002 and lowered bacteria 2000ppm to 8ppm in less than 21 days

Picture of a Western Gull

Western Gull (Larus argentatus)

The western gull is the largest and most abundant gull on the west coast, as opposed to the great black backed on the east coast. It takes 4 years for a western gull to reach maturity; juveniles are identified by a browner color to white ratio. They nest on the Channel Islands and on the mainland in remote locations from March to August. Their life expectancy is 15 to 18 years.

Picture of a Californian Gull

California Gull (Larus californicus)

The California gull is slightly smaller than the Western gull, and is the second most common on the West Coast. They nest in large rookeries at Mono Lake (Eastern Sierra Nevada Range) and return to plague metropolitan California after brooding young around September to November. They are similar to the Western gull with brown to white markings, and their life expectancy is 12 to 15 years.

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