Too Many River Birds

I have watched the number of birds increase since the early 90s at an alarming rate. I figured they were increasing by about 30% every year but now I wonder if I am under estimating and it could be more like 50% or so. The number of birds is shocking.

Each of those birds can eat five pounds of fish a day. Now if it was a five pound carp no one would care, but they don’t just eat carp and they don’t just eat one fish a day, they can eat dozens if not hundreds everyday. If you count bait fish and fry they are eating thousands a day, each one. I watched an Egret not long ago as I was trying to get photos because I am a bird lover and enjoy watching and taking photos of birds, but I saw an Egret eat a good sized Bluegill. I thought it would perch and be done fishing for the day but instead it stayed there trying to catch more. They will eat so many they can’t even fly anymore because of the weight. I know for fact that they do not like Gar, which are a big problem these days too because they too are growing in numbers and eating baitfish that the game fish eat. Each bird has it’s specialty, so there is no place to hide. If they go shallow in the weed beds, they have Egrets and Herons feeding on them. The fry that game fish and rough fish produce like to hang around weed edges to feed. Pelicans cruise these weed edges and eat several pounds of these fry every day. They work as a team and surround the fry and bait fish and trap them in and with those large bills they inhale water and all and them filter the water out trapping the bait fish and fry in their mouths. They also use this technique to trap shad in lakes and at the dams. Walleye, Bass and Catfish depend on these Shad.

The Cormorant are the diving birds. They can dive 60′ and swim faster than a fish. They are one of fish’s biggest threats. Even when they are full they continue to hunt and give their catch to the Pelicons. Pelicans and Cormorant spend a lot of time together, caring for each others young and hunting.

The Egrets like to hunt solo but they also use teamwork, if they find an easy food source you might find dozens all hunting one small area, with an occasional Heron in the group. Heron and Egrets also eat frogs, tadpoles and other aquatic life.

Most people don’t know it but Ducks and Geese also like to eat Shad and baitfish and they can decimate shallow areas below dams. but with hunting they are pretty much kept in check. The problems with the fish eating river birds is there is nothing to keep them in check, they have no natural enemies and their populations are exploding. One day their won’t be any more fish and starvation and disease will be the only way to control populations.

I have watched all the islands surrounded by shallow water have their last remaining trees and brush destroyed as these birds nest there. They choose these islands because it isn’t easy to get a boat too close. Soon there won’t be any of these islands with trees, and they will move to the islands up river near deep water and after the vegetation has been killed the islands will wash away with out the protect the roots give them.

The DNR are out of touch with reality, they claim they only eat rough fish but that isn’t true. So they believe they are a good thing and must be protected at all costs. Even if the game fish are wiped out, and fishing will be a lost sport, but we will have countless birds? Well when all the fish are gone the birds will starve so they better start trying to figure something out.

I don’t know what the answer is but something needs to be done to keep control before it’s too late.

UPDATE: I found this article, seesm the problem stretches all the way to Canada with the same story, fisherman know and DNR guesses wrong. I have seen these Pelicaons on lakes with no rough fish what so ever. The DNR isn’t doing their job of protecting our fisheries. I am a bird lover, but also a fish lover and the river birds populations are out of control and they are eating all the fish. In the photo above with the Pelicans on that one island, the full size photo that I took shows that most of those birds are this years hatch. There are several of those islands with your birds as the adults are hunting for fish. The population is exploding drastically.

More information on White Pelicans. They are in fact an invasive species, coming from Europe and Africa. They have a wingspan of about 9-10 feet. They live about 20 years. They can eat several pounds of fish each day. They are showing up everywhere, lakes rivers, anywhere body of water with fish in it. They feed in groups trapping fish. They like to cruise weedlines and eat fish, baitfish and fry. They have webbed feet and can swim fast. They are community orientated, sharing hatchery ares with Cormorants, Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Herons and Seagulls. These other waterbirds are also having a population explosion. Fisherman are complaining of weak fisheries, the game fish fish are disappearing fast. These water birds are becoming more and more tollerant of humans. Pelicans will follow fisherman, who throw fish back, those fish resurface downriver to get air and the pelicans swallow them up, I have seen this myself.

About Dave Tackett

Dave Tackett is from Sterling Illinois. An avid fisherman since childhood, he has fished all over the Midwest, mainly the Mississippi River pools 8-19. His home waters are pools 13 & 14. After fishing Bass tournaments for many years, he gave it up to fish for Walleye year round. He now guides and fishes for fun. He likes to take photos of the scenic places he visits on the river and likes to keep a video camera running to get footage for his Walleye DVDs. Photography is now where he most of his time working, using professional DSLR cameras and lens. These photos include landscape around the Mississippi River and the Rock River, river birds like eagles heron, egrets etc.
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