A curse to many grain milling operations and poultry enterprises is free-loading birds that harbour disease and cause significant issues with their waste.
Foremost are pigeons. Flying rats. Closely followed by Starlings and the rapidly increasing numbers of Indian Myna birds.
Tamworth-based Will Saunders saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. He has created a business culling these pests, from meat and grain processing enterprises to chicken production.
He uses a high-powered, small calibre air rifle, and his best tally was about 500 pigeons at a meat processor in one night. The growth and adoption of thermal-powered scopes have been rapid, but Mr Saunders is analogue in his approach. He uses a HID (high-intensity discharge) spotlight clipped to his telescopic sight, which freezes the target in its tracks and doesn't have the impact that thermal sights endure in areas that have the pollution of nighttime security lighting.
"Pigeons are such a nuisance, apart from carrying disease and lice, they're a real pest around farm buildings and food processing factories," Mr Saunders said. "Once I get the light on them, they hold (still); it helps me get the best results."
He added that the 0.177 calibre air rifle has a rechargeable air cylinder that can generate plenty of power when needed but can also be "dialled back" to prevent damage to roofing and wall material and refrigerated units.
With the capacity to change the rifle's power, Mr Saunders can make up to 300 shots per cylinder of 'dry air'. Carrying an extra cylinder can extend the night's work if circumstances demand it. Refilling the cylinder is easy with an air compressor. Still, Mr Saunders said ensuring dry air is vital, as any moisture can cause rust issues and damage his valuable rifle.
Apart from culling flying vermin, other pests that fall into his sights include foxes and rabbits.
"I've been doing this for more than five years, and there's still plenty of demand," he said. "The trick with culling pigeons is to get them before they begin to breed, as once they build a nest, they return to it every time they breed.
"The word gets around, and I get more work by word of mouth. Now that the season is drying up, more birds are moving onto sheds, silos and food-processing plants.
The growth in demand for air rifles has been fed by a range of calibres developed and produced in the United States. Mr Saunders can change his rifle's barrel, which cost him in the vicinity of $5000, to a 0.22 calibre.
"But I've heard that they have up to 50 calibre air rifles in the US. They would use the contents of one air cylinder for a shot," he said.
Mr Saunders said cleaning up after carrying out a culling program was also important.
"The night I got about 500 birds, I had a bit to do," he said.
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