Conservation Projects – Wetlands

Water birds control pests in rice fields

Our Ugandan Alumni have found that waterbirds provide invaluable services to rice farmers by feeding on rice pests. These findings, from research at the Kibimba rice fields of Uganda, helped dispel growing and conflicting claims that waterbirds were contributing, rather than easing pest-induced crop losses. The alumni have used these results to convince rice farmers to stop poisoning birds and instead protect them as they are beneficial to their crop. The alumni further noted that beyond controlling pests, waterbirds fed on weedy plants, and their droppings helps enrich the rice fields, resulting in a net gain for the farmers.

The research, the first in Uganda to examine potential ecosystem services that birds offer, focused on Ciconiiformes a group of stork-like waterbirds that include bitterns, egrets, herons, ibises and stokes that are a common sighting in rice paddies. The paddies’ wet conditions create favourable feeding habitats that attract waterbirds. While seed-eating birds are a serious pest in rice farms, the ciconiiformes feed on rats and a variety of insects that are even more serious pests in rice fields. These waterbirds also feed on snakes and snails that harmful to humans and that are associated with waterborne diseases.

Results of this research were published in the Advances in Research volume 2, issue 12.