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Starlings hurt local dairy farms and feedlots

Starlings hurt agricultural economy

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - There will be a lot more starlings in the sky this winter. Starlings are black birds with short tails and long beaks.

The birds are especially tough on dairy farmers and feedlot operators. Owner of Reed's Dairy, Allen Reed, said the birds are taking a toll on his wallet. He said they come in flocks during the winter and eat his cattle's feed.

"If you get 100 of them eating out of the corn throughout the winter they're going to eat quite a bit of feed," he said.  

Gregg Losinski of Idaho Fish and Game said in Idaho starlings eat 15 to 20 tons of cattle feed a day. They also cause $800 million in damage nationwide.

"It is not just one or two at a time, you'll see hundreds or thousands in a flock and when you have that many of any bird you're going to have a problem," Losinksi said.     

The United States Department of Agriculture said one of its top priority is controlling the birds. Director of wildlife services said last year 195,000 starlings were killed at feedlots and dairies in Idaho. This year they're receiving calls about cattle getting sick.

"They can actually transmit disease between swine operations. They can pick it up and then deposit it in droppings," Losinski said.

Losinksi said with food being limited in the winter giant flocks are going to appear.
It is something dairy farms just have to deal with.

"There is really not a lot we can do," Reed said.

Reed doesn't know much money he is losing, but he does know his cattle are not sick.

On the other hand, starlings can be useful because they eat lots of insects. They were introduced in the late 1800's. There are over 150 million of them in North America.

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