BirdLife Western Australia is urging farmers to reconsider broadscale baiting for mice in canola crops to prevent possible poisoning of endangered Carnaby’s cockatoos.

Key points:

  • Some farmers are baiting for mice by using poisoned grain
  • Conservationists are worried Carnaby’s cockatoos may eat the poisoned grain
  • They’re urging farmers to consider other options, and the public to keep an eye out for sick birds

The plea comes in response to farmers using poisoned grain as part of aerial baiting programs targeting increased mice numbers this season.

BirdLife WA program manager Vicki Stokes said the birds could eat the grain while feeding on canola crops, potentially harming or killing the endangered species.

She urged people to keep an eye out for cockatoos that may have ingested poison and report dead or sick-looking birds to BirdLife WA’s Perth office or Perth Zoo, to help scientists better understand the risk.

“If that grain ends up in spaces where the birds are on the ground feeding on canola there is potential that Carnaby’s black cockatoos could ingest some of those grains,” Dr Stokes said.

Carnaby's cockatoo feeding on a canola crop.

An endangered Carnaby’s cockatoo feeding on a canola crop.(

Supplied: Tony Kirkby

)

Direct consumption biggest risk

Curtin University associate professor in ecology Bill Bateman agreed it was possible the cockatoos could be affected by directly eating poisoned grain.

But he said farmers used a first-generation poison which was less potent than the second-generation poison bought as a mouse bait at supermarkets.

While research had found second-generation baits could affect animals like owls and snakes that ate poisoned mice, using first-generation baits reduced the risk.

However, Dr Bateman said animals that ate first-generation bait directly from grain, like Carnaby’s cockatoos and other parrots, could be affected.

A flock of cockatoos flying over agricultural land.

A flock of Carnaby’s cockatoos flying over agricultural land.(

Supplied: Tony Kirby

)

Little evidence

Despite the risk, Dr Bateman said there had been little to no evidence of poisoning having occurred during past baiting programs.

He said determining poisoning as a cause of death was difficult, as the animal needed to be studied soon after death.

“The bottom line is we’ve been doing it for years and there’s not really any evidence that first-generation baits have too much of an impact,” he said.

To reduce potential impact, Dr Bateman said farmers needed to distributed poisoned grain in areas only accessible to mice, in restricted quantities and not as a broadscale baiting program.

He encouraged the preservation of mice’s natural predators – such as owls, raptors, snakes and goannas – as a more ecological mouse-control alternative to poison.

Mouse baiting in canola crops touted as a possible risk to endangered Carnaby’s cockatoos
Source:
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