DUCKS, locusts and mice: Riverina rice growers have had to deal with many pests in the past couple of years.Now, in the past couple of months, they have been menaced by bald coots.
No, these are not overseas businessmen looking to buy out SunRice.
They are water birds, somewhat similar to native water hens.
Bald coots have become such a menace in some rice growing districts, a group of sharpshooters recently shot 1500 in a single Saturday morning.
One grower told Weekly Times Now he had spent between $3000 and $4000 on shotgun cartridges in the past few weeks.
He said local hardware stores were having difficulty keeping up the supply of shotgun cartridges.
He was now looking to hire a helicopter to shoot them from the air.
Grower John Bradford, of Deniliquin, said most rice-growing districts had problems with bald coots this season.
Mr Bradford's crops were attacked in the past two weeks.
"They chew the crop and lay it over to make platforms above the (irrigation) water,'' Mr Bradford said.
"It's a type of ringbarking which cuts off the water supply to the plant. They are then protected from foxes.''
Mr Bradford said they were a very smart bird and difficult to move on – and damaging – once they made home in the rice crop.
"Fifty bald coots can take out 10ha-15ha of crop in a couple of weeks,'' he said.
Wakool has been particularly hard hit by bald coots.
Local grower Dennis Gleeson said bald coots were in plague proportions.
Mr Gleeson said he had lost about 40ha of about 550ha sown to rice from bald coots.
"We've never had it this bad (from bald coots) before,'' Mr Gleeson said.
Mr Gleeson said ducks and water hens – or turbo chooks as he called them – have also been rampant in recent years.
"We've got millions of turbo chooks up here,'' he said.
"Our neighbours sowed their rice crop twice this season, mainly because of ducks and water hens.
"The coots have come in later.''
Mr Gleeson said the bald coots did not appear to eat the grain, which was now starting to form on the rice plant, but the other birds did.
"The ducks have given us heaps of grief,'' he said.
"We are hoping the turbo chooks don't start getting a taste for our grain, too.''