Sunday, January 03, 2016

Angry residents fighting turf war with insect-searching starlings

Householders of Solihull in the West Midlands are at their wits' end over attacks on their lawns by starlings. Some plots, Yewhurst Road is a particular hotspot, have been totally ripped up as the flocks search for two starling delicacies: leatherjackets and chafer grubs. The result is desirable properties with gardens that resemble a muddy battlefield. Yewhurst Road resident Jean Stenson said: “Both our front and back lawns have been attacked by the birds in recent months.

“They have torn up the grass to leave large patches of soil. Each time we have replaced the patches with fresh grass the same thing has happened.” Pete Swingler, who lives in the same road, said: “Our garden is covered in bald patches. The birds descend in huge numbers and literally rip up the turf.” Buryfield Road has also been blitzed by hundreds of the little sods. And the turf times look set to be endured for some time to come.

Victims have been told the treatment needed to keep the birds at bay cannot be applied until May, at a cost of £30. The root cause of the problem has been revealed to be chafer grubs by lawn specialists Green Thumb, which has visited affected areas. Green Thumb stated: “The birds feed off the grubs, causing damage to the lawn as they peck through the grass.” But the RSPB pointed out that leatherjackets – the larvae of daddy-long-legs (craneflies) – are also lurking under the soil.

They are just as tempting to a host of other birds, including magpies and blackbirds. The charity said: “Several species of birds will exploit this food supply and a typical starling signature is beak-sized holes drilled all over the lawn. Rooks use a similar strategy but they would be relatively rare in the average garden. The trouble is, they have relatives that are not so wary. Jackdaws, carrion crows and magpies will all exploit this source of food and they are not so sophisticated in the way they feed.”

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