Date of this Version
The Sunflower magazine, the voice of the National Sunflower Organization, featured articles in January 1978 and December 1996 that began with these words, "If Old King Cole was a merry old soul, it was probably because he had only four and twenty blackbirds to contend with, and they were all out of commission!" This quotation captures the sentiments of sunflower growers, who have identified blackbirds as a major production problem since the 1960s. The National (formerly Denver) Wildlife Research Center, a unit within the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services, is charged with both improving and developing new methods for managing blackbird damage to sunflower. The Sunflower has chronicled these research efforts championing studies with clear objectives and opposing studies, sometimes vehemently, that use resources for seemingly esoteric research. In this paper, the history of blackbird research in the northern Great Plains is traced through The Sunflower.