Iowa Public Television


Keeping Blackbirds at Bay in Sunflower Fields

posted on March 23, 2007

Growing more sunflower for healthier oil may have an ill-fated effect on blackbirds. Demand is rising for a sunflower variety that produces oil with less saturated fat and no trans fat that contributes the risk of heart disease. However there is a fear that a long-time pest of the crop, blackbirds who feast on the oilseed, will become even more of a problem to farmers.

The USDA estimates the birds cause about $10 million in damage to sunflower each year in North Dakota. The North Dakota legislature is considering a bill to spend nearly $80,000 to help a federal effort to control blackbirds. The method of control includes baiting and killing the birds and the use of noise cannons that scare the blackbirds. There is also support of placing poison on gravel roads so when the birds stop on the road to grit their gizzards to help them digest food, they would ingest the poison.

Supporters of using poisoned bail say other control methods only move blackbirds from one field to another. Opponents say the poison will kill more than the birds.

Tags: animals birds flowers news oil plants