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


Date of this Version



BioScience 61: 960–970. ISSN 0006-3568, electronic ISSN 1525-3244; doi:10.1525/bio.2011.61.12.6


Even though avian damage to sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) is a worldwide economic issue, several of the current methods used to reduce sunflower damage were developed and tested in the Prairie Pothole Region of the United States. An intensive research program was conducted in that area because of the regionalized concentration of sunflower production and the severe incidences of blackbird (Icteridae) depredation. During the past 40 years, federal and university scientists tested chemical and physical frightening agents, aversive repellents, bird-resistant sunflowers, decoy crops, habitat management, population management, and cultural modifications in cropping. Some of these techniques have broad applicability and may be useful in depredation scenarios involving other bird species and crops. Population suppression is intuitively appealing, but it typically fails beyond local scales because of avian mobility, population dynamics, and public antipathy. Scare devices, repellents, habitat management, and decoy crops are more likely to meet the test of predictable efficacy and practicality.