Seed-eating birds are important pest of rice. In Sabah the most common avian pests of rice are the Munias (Lonchura spp.), particularly Dusky Munia (Lonchura fuscans) and Black Headed or Chestnut Munia (Lonchura atricapilla jagori), known as "Pipit" or "Burung Pipit" by the locals. Munias are a menace in most rice-growing areas. This leaflet is produced to guide farmers to control bird pests in ripening rice. The control measures are outlined as follows:
(i). Traditional method. The traditional method consists of strings attached with empty cans, which are tied from a hut to the other sides of the rice field. Upon seeing the birds landing on the crop, the person manning the hut will pull the strings to produce noises to frighten the birds away. This method is very effective if the farmer is able to carry out the job from 6am to 6pm beginning from the milking stage until the crop is ready for harvesting, which is less than 30 days. However, this method has become unpopular because of labour shortage in the farm workforce and the job is tedious. But it is justifiable to hire a full time worker as the crucial time for bird control is only during the grain formation period and subsequent yield can offset labour cost. The empty cans are often replaced with colourful objects such as plastic bags or plastic strips, which are equally effective.
(ii). Uniform planting. The degree of bird damage is related to the cropping pattern of a particular location. If the crop ripens uniformly, bird damage is insignificant. On the contrary, if the crop matures in patches, damage can be severe because the field that matures first will become the target for pests. Farmers are advised to practice synchronized planting so that the crop matures at the same time. Staggered plantings will cause the crop to mature in stages.
(iii). Trap. Figure 1, 2 and 3 shows the design of a trap effective for bird control in rice field. The trap consists of cheap materials and is simple to apply. However, it requires a full time worker to carry out the task. The trap is laid flat on the ground. Figure 1 shows the trap in the open form. Close to the centre of the trapping area is a stick tied with three birds, which is used as "bait" to attract other birds to land when the person manning at the hiding place pulls the string attached to the stick back and forth. Another worker is required to assist by chasing the birds around in the field with the hope that the birds will land on the trap. Upon seeing a flock of birds landing on the trapping area, the string attached to the two netting frames is pulled hard to shut the trap in a snap (Figure 2 and 3). The birds trapped on the nets are killed by trampling with foot and are removed manually by hands when their number becomes too numerous in the trapping area. The trap is suitable to apply when the cropping area is large or no less than 50 acres with high bird population density. This method is not suitable for bird control in small area with low pest density.
Some farmers have been using chemicals for bird control. Pesticides are selected arbitrarily and are applied by spraying onto the crop during the ripening stage. The birds are killed on the spot after ingesting the treated rice. The DOA does not recommend this method because of the risk associated with post application residues in the crop and the effect on non-target organisms including environmental pollution. For further information and assistance on bird control, please contact the nearest District Agriculture Office.