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


Date of this Version



National Sunflower Association Sunflower Research Forum, January 11-12, 2011. Fargo, ND. NSA Website Online Forum.


North Dakota is the top sunflower producer in the United States, annually harvesting about 1 million acres (404,686 ha). Recently, corn has become a major crop within the state. Red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula), and yellow-headed blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) often cause significant damage to these crops. The National Sunflower Association considers blackbird depredation of sunflower to be a key factor in the reduction in sunflower acreage in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR).

In 1979 and 1980, a field survey of bird damage to sunflower in North Dakota showed an estimated economic loss between $4 and 11 million (Hothem et al., 1988). This was the last comprehensive field damage survey. Peer et al. (2003) used a bioenergetic model and estimated that bird damage was valued at $5-10 million. Sunflower prices have increased 3-fold since these monetary losses were calculated. In 2008, plantings of sunflower and corn in North Dakota are projected to be 216,514 ha (535,000 acres) and 910,575 ha (2.25 million acres), respectively.