Tuesday, 21 August 2012 13:37

Starlings can fire up tractors

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STARLINGS HAVE caused at least $9 million damage to farm tractors during the past five years, says rural insurer FMG.  Birds love to nest in warm, dry places -- especially tractor engines. But the resulting straw can easily catch fire and destroy a tractor.

Jason Rolfe, FMG rural manager in Manawatu/Horowhenua/Kapiti, says tractor fires are a big claim item. “It’s the breeding season for starlings and farmers should make sure they check their tractors for nests before taking them out.”

Starlings don’t distinguish between an old or new tractor; they simply look for a warm, dry nesting place. “It takes a starling just 18 minutes to build a nest so they can do it while a farmer is having lunch.”

Starlings were  brought to New Zealand in 1862 and are beneficial to farms – foraging on insects, in particular grass grubs. Nesting boxes are good encouragement to them. But mind their presence in woolsheds and tractors.

Farmers should check for bird nests at each tractor start-up, Rolfe says. And they should carry a fire extinguisher in the tractor. “So if they do notice smoke [from under the bonnet] they can put the fire out and minimise damage. 

“Often a tractor will catch fire [while underway, far from] a water trough. It’s not uncommon for farmers to lift the bonnet when they see the smoke, then obviously a bit of oxygen is what the fire needs to flare up.”

Rolfe says tractors burn well once on fire. FMG encourages farmers to buy fire extinguishers. 

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