Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

September 1966


Our chairman has wisely asked that we not spend all of our time here telling each other about our bird problems. In the Southeast, our difficulties with blackbirds are based upon the same bird habits that cause trouble elsewhere: they flock, they roost and they eat, generally taking advantage of the readily available handouts that today's agricul¬tural practices provide. Those of us on the receiving end of these de¬predations of course think that damage in our own particular area must be far the worst, anywhere. Because of the location of our meeting place today, perhaps it is worthwhile to point out that a report prepared by our Bureau's Washington office this year outlined the problem of blackbird damage to corn in the Middle Atlantic States, the Great Lakes Region and in Florida, and then followed with this statement--"An equally serious problem occurs in rice and grain sorghum fields of Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana." The report also men¬tions that the largest winter concentrations of blackbirds are found in the lower Mississippi Valley. Our 1963-64 blackbird-starling survey showed 43 principal roosts totaling approximately 100 million of these birds in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. We have our own birds during the summer plus the "tourist" birds from up here and elsewhere during the winter, and all of these birds must eat, so suffice it to say that we, too, have some bird problems in the Southeast. I'm sure you're more interested in what we're doing about them. To keep this in perspective also, please bear in mind that against the magnitude of these problems, our blackbird control research staff at Gainesville consists of 3 biologists, 1 biochemist and one technician. And unfortunately, none of us happens to be a miracle worker. I think, though, we have made great progress toward solving the bird problems in the Southeast for the man-hours that have been expended in this re¬search. My only suggestion to those who are impatient about not having more answers is that they examine the budget that has been set up for this work. Only then could we intelligently discuss what might be expected as a reasonable rate of research progress. When I think about what we have accomplished in a short span of time, with very small expenditure, I can assure you that I am very proud of our small research crew at Gainesville--and I say this quite sincerely. At the Gainesville station, we work under two general research approaches to the bird damage problem. These projects have been assigned to us. The first is research on management of birds, particularly blackbirds and starlings destructive to crops or in feedlots, and, secondly, the development and the adaptation of those chemical compounds found to be toxic to birds but relatively safe to mammals. These approaches both require laboratory and field work that is further subdivided into several specific research projects. Without describing the details of these now, I want to mention some of our recent results. From the results, I'm sure you will gather the general objectives and some of the procedures used.