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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Avian Contraceptive Tools: One Size Does Not Fit All

  • Author(s): Yoder, Christi A.
  • Miller, Lowell A.
  • et al.

Avian contraception is a nonlethal management tool that can be utilized in conjunction with other management techniques to help manage bird populations causing damage. Because management situations vary with respect to the type of damage, species involved, location, and nontarget hazards, it is necessary to develop multiple contraceptive tools to allow management flexibility. DiazaCon™ and nicarbazin have already been developed at the National Wildlife Research Center as avian contraceptives. Although both of these are promising contraceptive agents, more are needed for a wider variety of situations. Current research is focusing on other cholesterol inhibitors, inhibitors of the P450 side chain cleavage enzyme, and aromatase inhibitors. Because cholesterol is needed for steroid reproductive hormone production, inhibition of cholesterol impairs reproduction by preventing the formation of the necessary hormones. The P450 side chain cleavage enzyme is needed to convert cholesterol to pregnenolone, the precursor to progesterone and testosterone. Progesterone is needed for egg formation, ovulation, and oviposition, and testosterone is needed for sperm production. Aromatase is needed to convert testosterone to estradiol, which is needed in females to stimulate the production of egg yolk precursors in the liver. Inhibition of either of these enzymes should result in impaired reproduction. In the future, natural plant products with contraceptive activity, such as neem seed, will also be investigated. Because development of avian contraceptives is time intensive, an efficient screening process needs to be in place. Population models can assist in choosing specific agents to test for a given species and management situation. Although contraception is unlikely to be useful as a stand-alone tool, it can be included in integrated management plans.

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