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


Document Type


Date of this Version

October 2004


Published by Proc. 16th International Sunflower Conference, Fargo, ND


We determined avian use of roadside rights-of-way to develop proper management strategies for the manipulation of roadside cattail. Cattail management is a technique used to reduce nesting and roosting habitat for problematic blackbird species, which might feed on sunflower crops in the vicinity of cattail-dominated wetlands. Thirty quarter sections (1 quarter section ≈ 64.75 ha) located in the Southern Drift Plains of North Dakota served as our study units. Roadside habitat along two 0.5 mile (-0.8 km) transects bordering these quarter sections was surveyed to assess avian use. Additionally, nest surveys were , conducted to provide an index of breeding bird use of this roadside habitat. Finally, roadside habitat was surveyed for a number of different habitat variables. We found 49 different species during the surveys. Of the 2,529 birds found in this habitat, 1,479 (41.5%) were blackbirds. Blackbirds were also the primary nesting birds, contributing to 89% of the active nests found in roadside habitat. In terms of avian use and nesting, blackbirds, especially redwings, were the dominant bird species using roadside cattail. With proper management of roadside habitat, potential effects on non-blackbirds can be minimized, and nesting habitat for blackbirds can be reduced. Our data Indicate that a loss in nesting habitat will likely result in fewer blackbirds and a subsequent reduction in sunflower damage.