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Site Use of European Starlings Captured and Radio-tagged at Texas Feedlots during Winter

  • Author(s): Homan, H. Jeffrey
  • Slowik, Anthony A.
  • Penry, Linda B.
  • Linz, George M.
  • Bodenchuk, Michael J.
  • Gilliland, Rickey L.
  • et al.
Abstract

We radio tagged and tracked 50 European starlings between December 2008 and January 2009 at 3 feedlots in the northern Texas Panhandle. Daily fidelity to sites of capture (home feedlots) was different among the 3 radio-tagged cohorts. Cohorts from Sites A and C were recorded at home feedlots on 48 and 59% of tracking days, respectively. The Site B cohort was at its home feedlot 95% of days. There were qualitative differences in use of home feedlots between cohorts A and C. The former were nearly obligate in their use of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO), whereas the latter tended to balance their use between CAFO and a nearby urban center. Six birds (12%) used either one or both of the counterpart home feedlots. Of these, 5 permanently switched from their home feedlots and used counterpart home feedlots; one bird captured at Site B alternated between Sites A and C after abandoning its home feedlot. Use of roost sites depended on habitat composition surrounding the study feedlots. Urban habitats were used as roosts by several birds from Sites A and C, whereas birds using Site B roosted at a petroleum refinery and a reservoir. Some Site B individuals used both roost sites during the study period; however, the reservoir was the preferred roost site. Daily activities in habitats away from the home feedlot generally occurred ≤5 km from the home feedlot. For birds from Sites A and C, offsite habitats were mainly urban areas and small CAFO. Increased habitat heterogeneity, as exemplified in our study by urban habitats and CAFO near Sites A and C, seemed to reduce rates of daily use of home feedlots. Heterogeneous environments can complicate management strategies that use DRC-1339 Concentrate for reducing starling numbers at infested CAFO. First, starlings may be erratic in their daily use of a CAFO in complex environments. Secondly, urban areas, when present, may be used as refuges by poisoned birds, leading to adverse public exposure.

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