Hon Ken Baston MLC

Hon Ken Baston MLC

Former Minister for Agriculture and Food; Fisheries

    New 'song meters' listen out for pest birds

    25/09/2015 7:30 AM
    • Surveillance program underway to stop starlings from establishing in WA

    Audio recording devices have been rolled out to south-eastern parts of Western Australia to provide another line of defence against starlings, Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston said today.


    Mr Baston said the devices were an innovative addition to seasonal surveillance activities now underway throughout the Esperance and Eucla areas to stop the pest bird encroaching from the Eastern States.


    "Starlings pose a major pest threat for agriculture as they gorge on cultivated grain and horticultural crops, foul wool, compete with stock for feed, spread diseases and can displace native birds," he said.


    "The Department of Agriculture and Food carries out surveillance each year and has just installed 36 audio recording devices, or 'song meter units', to expand their surveillance reach."


    Each device is programmed to record for 30 minutes at dawn, when the birds are most active. They are placed in swamps which are typical nesting areas for starlings, and the data is then physically retrieved for a computer program to scan for any evidence of a starling's call.


    "Should department officers detect any suspect recordings, this will help guide their on-ground operations," the Minister said.


    Mr Baston urged the community, particularly along the South Coast, to be on the lookout for starlings.


    "Local communities and landowners play a vital role as the first line of observers," he said.


    "The department has maintained a highly successful surveillance and control program since the early 1970s to prevent the incursion of starlings into WA from South Australia.  Effective partnerships with natural resource management organisations, Birdlife Australia and other local interest groups have significantly added to the program."


    Fact File

    • Adult starlings have distinctive glossy black feathers with an iridescent green and purple sheen.  Young birds (seen in spring/summer) are a dull mouse-brown colour
    • Any flock of small dark birds seen turning quickly in tight groups should be reported
    • Any birds (other than a willy wagtail) seen on the back of livestock should also be investigated and reported if suspicious
    • Report anything suspicious to the Department of Agriculture and Food's Pest and Disease Information Service on 1800 084 881

    Minister's office - 6552 5400

    Starling_Credit of Lip Kee.jpg 


     Photo courtesy of Kip Lee