Birds at War With Golfers

Birds at War With Golfers 1
A coot picks at grass. (Morris)

I GREW UP PLAYING GOLF IN CALIFORNIA, so this story held special interest for me. More specifically, I played high-school golf tournaments in Tehachapi. I also played at Horse Thief Golf Club, the course mentioned in the article I just read. This from

Coots, a duck-like waterfowl, are at war with golfers. Coots mostly feed on plants and grasses and a golf course with its trimmed grass and water hazards makes a perfect place for them to live. Locally, a large flock or raft has set up camp at Horse Thief Golf Club in Stallion Springs.

Flocks are large, too. The article reports that an estimated 460,000 coots spend the winter in California and Nevada. I can’t say I blame them.

What are these black, duck-like birds doing?

They’re picking at and destroying the grass on the fairways and greens with their pointed beaks, and fouling the lakes and grassy areas with their droppings.

Golf course management in many locations have taken to chasing the birds
with golf carts and dogs to prevent them from eating the grass. At
Horse Thief, the birds have become so accustomed to the carts that the flock just separates to let the carts through, then goes right back
to the business of munching on the grass.

The Migratory Bird Act protects coots. A permit can be obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to get rid of the birds. Not surprisingly, it takes months to process the paperwork. And then the permit only allows eradication of as few as 300 coots a year. At Horse Thief, that’s not nearly enough birdies.

(Visor tip: GCSAA Industry Spotlight)

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

4 thoughts on “Birds at War With Golfers”

  1. Coots have replaced Canada Geese as the biggest pain in the a$$ at my local muni, Santa Teresa Golf Club, in San Jose, CA. I'm hoping that the local red-tailed hawk population picks up on how easy coots are to catch — maybe that'll get them off of the fairways!

  2. Don't have such problem birds here in Australia. Mostly just ducks, magpies and plovers occupy the golf courses.

    The biggest problem we have is when the birds have a nest nearby a fairway and they swoop the golfers to protect their young.

    Fortunately we are armed with golf clubs which make very handy weapons.


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