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


Date of this Version



Applied Animal Behaviour Science 129 (2011) 162–169.


Non-lethal alternatives are needed to manage bird damage to confectionery and oilseed sunflower crops (Helianthus annuus). Ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) can cause localized damage to newly planted sunflower, and blackbirds (Icterids) damage ripening sunflower annually in the United States of America. We conducted seed germination experiments, a repellent efficacy study with ring-necked pheasants and Avipel® repellent (a.i. 50% 9, 10-anthraquinone), and laboratory and field efficacy studies with common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) and Avipel®-treated confectionery sunflower. Compared to the germination of seeds not treated with anthraquinone, we observed no negative effects of up to 12,223 ppm, 14,104 ppm, and 11,569ppm anthraquinone seed treatments for germination of confectionery sunflower, oilseed sunflower, and canola seeds, respectively. Pheasants avoided emergent sunflower seedlings (12 days post-planting) from 15,800ppm anthraquinone seed treatments during a caged preference test (P = 0.045). We observed a positive concentration–response relationship (P = 0.001) and predicted a threshold concentration (i.e., 80% repellency) of 9200ppm anthraquinone for common grackles offered Avipel®-treated confectionery sunflower seeds. Grackles also reliably discriminated between untreated sunflower and seeds treated with 1300ppm anthraquinone in captivity (P < 0.001). During our field efficacy study for ripening confectionery sunflower, we observed 18% damage among anthraquinone-treated enclosures and 64% damage among untreated enclosures populated with common grackles (P < 0.001). Harvested seed mass averaged 2.54 kg (dry weight) among treated enclosures and 1.24 kg among untreated enclosures (P < 0.001). Our laboratory and field efficacy data provide a reliable basis for planning future field applications of anthraquinone-based repellents for protection of sunflower crops. Supplemental field efficacy studies are necessary for development of an effective avian repellent and management of avian depredation of ripening agricultural crops, including oilseed sunflower.