Agroscope is partnering with ornithologists to study the behaviour of corvids. The study aims to reduce the damage caused by these birds to sunflower and maize seedlings.
Crows and rooks are often blamed for damaging crops, especially during the sowing and emergence of maize and sunflowers. In the worst-affected areas, farmers try every means at their disposal to protect their seedlings, but sonic or visual scarers are not always effective and the use of repellent seed coatings is not always possible. Shooting and trapping of individual birds does not prevent damage and is not a solution either.
The main objective of our project is to provide farmers with effective methods to prevent bird damage in maize and sunflower crops. As a first step, we want to study the movement ecology and feeding behaviour of these avian crop pests in order to gain a general understanding of how spatial context influences the risk of damage in a plot. A ringing and GPS tagging campaign is to be organised by Agroscope in collaboration with the wildlife services of the canton of Vaud. Black crows (Corvus corone) and rooks (Corvus frugilegus) will be captured, marked with numbered rings, fitted with GPS trackers and released directly at the capture site as quickly as possible. To minimise disturbance near the capture site, please follow the basic rules: keep your distance and notify us in the event of problems.
In a parallel research strand, we are interested in the birds’ food preferences, in order to identify solutions in the form of repellent coatings without causing toxicity to animals or the environment. We also plan to test the effectiveness of under-sowing to limit birds’ access to seeds or seedlings while they are susceptible.
This work is being carried out in partnership with various local agricultural stakeholders in several Swiss regions. We will be able to estimate the damage caused in various habitat types and to test new protection devices on the plots in partnership with a network of volunteer farmers.