Migratory birds plunder farmers’ hay and grain ˙elds for dinner
followed by Farms’ support of birds studied
Migratory birds, such as geese, cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to farmers’ crops each year.
Foraging migratory birds like white fronts and coots are among the bandits.
Merrill-Tulelake farmer Steve Kandra farms next to national wildlife refuges and said foraging migratory birds, such as white fronts, Ross and coots, reduce his annual production by about one ton per acre.
Their browsing affects not only the first cuttings of alfalfa, but also the second and third cuttings, he said. The damage to hay and alfalfa crops alone amounts to about $180 per acre, Kandra said, totaling between $15,000 and $18,000 for his 100 acres.
For cereal crops, like wheat, which are experiencing record high prices, the damage could be around a $300 per acre loss, Kandra said.
Tom Collom, district wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the winter wheat fields are the “real ice- cream to geese,” adding that wheat fields and new seeding alfalfa fields see the worst damage.
Dave Mauser, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, estimated 70 to 75 percent of migratory spring geese were supported by agriculture.
“It should be apparent to everybody that it’s the private lands that are supporting, for the most part, these spring goose populations,” he said. “Birds don’t respect property lines.”
The latest figures for birds in the Basin included 280,000 snow geese, 238,000 white fronts and 52,000 coots.
The Klamath Basin is a final staging ground for the white fronts along the Pacific Flyway — the north-south migratory bird route that stretches from Alaska to Patagonia on the southernmost tip of South America.
Here, Mauser said, the white fronts fuel up for a non-stop f light to Southeast Alaska, where they usually have to wait about three weeks for the Alaskan tundra to produce any forage.
“The food and energy they get here is pretty critical for that flight,” he said.
During this northern migration, which lasts from May to late August, the white fronts have to build nests, lay eggs and raise a clutch just in time to f ly south again. The Klamath Basin also is a fall roosting site.
While the birds cause a good deal of damage, Kandra said he understands the role agriculture fields play in supporting the migratory fowl.
“Feeding migratory birds is what I call a duty and a joy, an opportunity and an obligation,” he said.
But, he added, he would like credit for what his fields are providing for wildlife. One way would include monetary compensation, but Kandra would be happy to change a common belief that agriculture is adverse to wildlife. Farmers’ help to the birds could instead be taken into account with water allocation, because water used for fields benefits wildlife.
Farms’ support of birds studied
Farmers, federal agencies begin Spring Goose Browse Study
By DD BIXBY, Herald and News 4/24/08