Avitrol: Eliminating Pest Birds

Published on Tue, 07/07/2015 - 3:05pm

By Maura Keller

Walk through any cattle feedlot and you are bound to see a concentration of various bird species, including blackbirds, starlings, and pigeons, reaping the benefits of food, shelter and warmth especially during the winter months, while contaminating the environs for the cattle themselves. While farmers and ranchers have used a myriad of methods to try to control their pest-bird problems, few have succeeded for any length of time. Enter Avitrol — a pest-bird control solution that has helped many farmers and ranchers eliminate their pest-bird problems and reduce the damage caused by nuisance birds.
Avitrol Corporation was developed by the Phillips Petroleum Company in the 1960s to help solve bird problems in agricultural settings. It was quickly discovered that the product could be used in a variety of settings from feedlots to skyscrapers and beyond.
Specifically, Avitrol is used as a chemical frightening agent in treated bait to remove pest birds from feedlots and other area. The Avitrol bait uses 4-Aminopyridine (4AP), an acute oral toxicant, which is used as a human drug for treating multiple sclerosis, and other conditions involving nerve damage. Used in Avitrol Brand baits, 4-Aminopyridine has the ability to artificially induce a bird’s natural fright response. This peculiar behavior is interpreted by the remainder of the flock as an alarm or distress reaction that frightens the flock from that location.
Applied as an acute oral toxicant, it causes the reaction in the birds that is similar to an epileptic seizure. Birds eating the treated bait will emit behaviors and sounds indicating they are frightened or injured, causing the rest of the flock to leave the site.
In 20ll, Tasheena Dillingham purchased Avitrol Corporation from the previous owners, who were retiring. While Tasheena owns and operates the company as a sole proprietor, her husband, Sheldon, helps with Avitrol’s overall technology management and sales and marketing efforts.
As Tasheena explains, Avitrol has products registered for use for several different key pest bird species. “Our product lines are Avitrol Whole Corn, Corn Chops, Mixed Grains, Double Strength Corn Chops, Double Strength Whole Corn, and baiting trays for bait application,” Dillingham says.
Most of these products are registered in every state in the country, and are extremely effective against pigeons, starlings, cowbirds, blackbirds, house sparrows, crows, and grackles. When you have a large gathering of pest birds, damage can result from feed consumption, feed contamination and the possible spread of disease. During winter, when their natural food supply is no longer available, hundreds or thousands of birds often take up residence in feedlots, consuming large quantities of feed. This seasonal economic loss can take a serious toll on farmers.
“We’ve found that cattle operators deal with a variety of pest birds, with starlings and house sparrows often being a key culprit,” Dillingham says. These bird species disrupt cattle operations by eating and contaminating grain and water meant for cattle consumption. We’ve met quite a few farmers and ranchers who have contracted histoplasmosis from fecal droppings in their barns and sheds, or even had crows pluck the eyes out of newborn calves and sever the umbilical cords. Avitrol can help get rid of pest birds on your property that can disrupt your operations.”
Years ago, the Avitrol team was working with a feedlot in Kansas that was experiencing an extremely severe starling problem, with more than 5,000 birds taking over the feedlot.
“The best product for baiting this particular species of bird is our Double Strength Corn Chops,” Dillingham says. “So during our pre-baiting process, we baited the birds with regular, untreated corn chops. They took the pre-bait without issue, and within a few weeks we decided to introduce the live bait.”
Because this infestation consisted of so many birds, Avitrol opted to use a highly diluted mixture ratio of the bait to untreated bait in the next feeding.
“This helps to maximize the frightening affect our product has, while minimizing mortality,” Dillingham says. “The next morning, we introduced the flock to the ‘live’ bait, but did not see an immediate affect. We tried it again the next day, and saw the exact same thing — just a few birds reacting, but the problem seemed to persist.”
As Dillingham explains, the key to successful application of any pesticide is patience, so on day three the Avitrol team applied live bait again. This time, they saw the reaction they were looking for.
“There is nothing like the sight of nearly 5,000 birds lifting up and flying away from a site simultaneously, but that is exactly what we were seeing,” Dillingham says. “This is the perfect instance of what a successful Avitrol application looks like — minimal material use and cost, maximum results of the birds gone, with very limited mortality. There were probably 20 birds that experienced reactions.”
While various types of pest-bird deterrents are used within the agricultural industry, including recorded alarms, propane cannons, and even traps, Avitrol is the only true chemical bird control product on the market.
“The pest birds that you frighten away with Avitrol will not return to your property, ever,” Dillingham says. “Avitrol is also a low-cost solution with high quality results. Devices and exclusion techniques can cost thousands of dollars to install and are often impractical in a farm setting. Avitrol can take care of pest-bird problems for a small fraction of the cost, and is easy to apply.”
Coming from an agricultural background, Tasheena is eager to further expand Avitrol into the agricultural community to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers dealing with pest-bird problems.
“We are reaching out to the agricultural community to help customize solutions for their individual pest-bird problems and working on educating private applicators on using Avitrol products,” Dillingham says. “We’ve often found that many operators are not aware of the Avitrol solution, so it has been fun getting to work with new users. Of course the best thing about running Avitrol is meeting new people on the road. Sheldon recently did a presentation for some farmers up in Pennsylvania out in Amish country and was nearly run over by a horse-drawn buggy! Being on the road is an adventure, and we look forward to sharing stories with the incredible agricultural community for years to come.”