Pigeons and doves pose a threat to grains

Speckled pigeons, red-eyed and Cape turtle doves are becoming a serious problem in the summer grain production region of South Africa.

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This was according to Free State sorghum producer Louis Claassen from Sasolburg. “We have to contend not only with red-billed queleas, but pigeons and doves as well. I’ve lost 150ha grain sorghum to doves this year. I’ve been farming for 30 years and have never seen so many of the birds on my farm. They descended in their thousands on the lands and annihilated the crops.”

Grain SA senior economist Corné Louw said the problem was escalating every year. “In the past, we had problems with speckled pigeons in sunflower, but the birds are increasingly feeding on grain sorghum too.” Louw said the matter had been taken up with the Problem Bird Forum and the agricultural department to include the doves and pigeons on the list of official migratory pests. “We’ve also petitioned the department to include pests such as gerbils and army worms.”

Head of Griffon Poison Information Service Dr Gerhard Verdoorn said the problem had been caused by an over-abundance of food in the form of grains such as sorghum and sunflowers. “We’ve also created an ideal habitat in the urban areas with ample nesting opportunity around houses and buildings.”

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Verdoorn said speckled doves easily flew 30km to 40km from Bloemfontein to feed on sunflowers. “I would recommend that producers make contact with the SA Wing Shooters’ Association. The birds are intelligent and will change their habits soon after a few shooting sessions in a grain land,” he said.