The Role of Ciconiiformes in Controlling Pests in Rice Paddies of Kibimba, Eastern Uganda
Mwima, Polycarp M.
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Aim: The study examined the diversity and abundance of Ciconiiforme birds and their potential role in provision of environmental services to control potential pests in rice paddies. Study Design: A cross sectional study design was used Place and Duration of the Study: The study was conducted at Kibimba rice scheme, eastern Uganda, from October 2013 to April 2014. Methodology: A combination of total counts, focal bird observations and a social economic survey was used. Waterbird counts were made in a total of 71 field plots, of which 18 were harvested fields, 20 ploughed fields, 23 with rice in the early stages of growth (Phase 1) and 10 with mature rice (Phase 2). Focal bird observations were conducted in harvested and ploughed flooded rice fields for ease of visibility and included watching individual birds of the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) (9), Black-headed Heron (Ardea melanocephala) (59) and the Open-billed Stork (Anastomus lamelligerus) (86) for a maximum of 15 minutes each and documenting the prey they took. Results: There was a significant difference in the abundance of species recorded on the different rice stages (c3 = 19.104, P =.0001). Ploughed fields supported the highest number of waterbird species (41) and individuals (28.79±3.238) while harvested fields supported the least (7.15±0.974). Focal observations showed that the Open-billed Stork fed mostly on snails, the Black-headed Heron fed on snakes, rats and frogs while the Grey Heron fed on rats. Farmers indicated that rats, snails and birds were the primary pests of their rice crop and suggested that birds such as herons and Open-billed storks can be used to control rats and snails respectively, while the bird pests are mainly controlled through poisoning. Conclusion: These results indicate that waterbirds can play an invaluable environmental service of feeding on potential rice pests therefore should be protected.
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