Deer may become pests in land adjoining woodland where they hide. Muntjac and roe deer ring-bark (see p95) trees and eat succulent crops. High fences and regular shooting may be used in their control.

Bird pests

A couple of important bird pests are included here. The wood-pigeon (Columbapalumbus)

Damage. This attractive-looking, 40 cm long, blue-grey pigeon with white underwing bars is known to horticulturists as a serious pest on most outdoor edible crops. In spring, seeds and seedlings of crops such as brassicas, beans and germinating turf may be systematically eaten. In summer, cereals and clover receive its attention; in autumn, tree fruits may be taken in large quantities, while in winter, cereals and brassicas are often seriously attacked, the latter when snowfall prevents the consumption of other food. The wood-pigeon is invariably attracted to high protein foods such as seeds when they are available.

Life cycle. Wood-pigeons lay several clutches of two eggs per year from March to September. The August/September clutches show highest survival. The eggs, laid on a nest of twigs situated deep inside the tree, hatch after about 18 days, and the young ones remain in the nest for 20-30 days. Predators such as jays and magpies eat many eggs, but the main population-control factor is the availability of food in winter. Numbers in the British Isles are boosted a little by migrating Scandinavian pigeons in April, but the large majority of this species is resident and non-migratory.

Control. The wood-pigeon spends much of its time feeding on wild plants, and only a small proportion of its time on crops. Control of the whole population, therefore, seems ethically unsound and is both costly and impracticable. Physical control involves the protection of particular fields by means of scaring devices which include scarecrows, bangers (firecrackers or gas guns), artificial hawks on wires, or rotating orange and black vanes, all which disturb the pigeons. Changing the type and location of the device every few days helps prevent the pigeons from becoming indifferent. The use of the shotgun by licenced operators from hidden positions such as hides and ditches (particularly when plastic decoy pigeons are placed in the field) is an important additional method of scaring birds and thus protecting crops.

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