U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Proceedings of the 14th WDM Conference (2012).


Blackbird damage to sunflower in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota is an unyielding challenge to the industry. Large populations of blackbirds and environmental concerns have driven the direction of research toward nonlethal methods that can be implemented locally. Currently, Wildlife Services field specialists lend propane cannons to growers and spray wetlands with glyphosate to fragment dense cattail stands used by roosting blackbirds. After researchers demonstrated decoy crops (wildlife conservation sunflower plots), some growers have adapted the basic principles and have started diverting blackbirds from sunflower, a high value crop, to alternative lesser-value crops, such as corn. USDA and university scientists are developing a perennial sunflower that might significantly lower the costs of planting WCSP. Growers now have access to several desiccants that hasten the crop harvest and thus avoid late-season blackbird damage. Finally, researchers are closer to developing an effective chemical bird repellent. In this paper, we outline current nonlethal blackbird management strategies.