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


Date of this Version



Published in National Sunflower Association Sunflower Research Forum, January 13-14, 2010.


North Dakota is the top sunflower producer in the United States, annually harvesting about 1 million acres (404,686 ha). The red-winged blackbird (RWBL), common grackle (COGR), and yellow-headed blackbird (YHBL) cause significant damage to these crops. Peer et al. (2003) estimated bird damage to sunflower at $5-10 million annually. Recently, corn has become a major crop within the state with 69,793,704.56 hectares planted in 2008 and 2009.
In the past 40 years, stable YHBL and increased COGR populations in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) may have lead to greater losses. While RWBL populations have declined slightly, populations in North Dakota have remained large and producers continue to report intense blackbird damage.
In central North Dakota, sunflower and corn fields are typically distributed within a landscape scattered with cattail wetlands, shelterbelts and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands which provide prime roosting, nesting, and loafing areas for blackbirds. Local nesting blackbirds along with migratory birds from the north cause significant crop damage.