BLACKBIRDS and their Control

 

Richard A. Dolbeer
Project Leader
Denver Wildlife Research Center
USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services
Sandusky, Ohio 44870

For additional information on blackbird control click Blackbird Control

Fig. 1. The red-winged blackbird Fig. 1. The red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is the most abundant bird in North America. The black male, with red and yellow shoulder patches, is about 40% larger than the female. The female resembles a large sparrow more than a blackbird.

redwinged blackbirds
Type of Crop Damage
Method of control Sprouting corn & rice Ripening corn, sorghum & sunflower Ripening rice & oats Fruit crops Feedlots
Exclusion Generally not practical; netting can be used on small plots Generally not practical; netting can be used on small plots; paper bags over ears or heads Generally not practical; netting can be used on small plots Netting is cost effective for high value crops See chapter on starlings
Cultural Methods Deep planting, avoid early planting of rice. Grow nonpreferred crops near roost; provide alternative feeding sites. Avoid early or late planting; use resistant hybrids. Harvest as early as possible. Same as for ripening corn except resistant hybrids not available. Provide alternative feeding site; early harvest. See chapter on starlings.
Frightening Several devices available: most popular is propane exploder. Several devices available; most popular is propane exploder; AvitrolĀ®. Several devices available: most popular is propane exploder. Several devices available: most popular is propane exploder. See chapteer on starlings; AvitrolĀ®.
Repellents Seed treatments. None available. None available. None available See chapter on starlings.
Toxicants None available. None available. None available. None available. Starlicide.
Trapping Generally not practical. Generally not practical. Generally not practical. Decoy traps. Decoy traps.
Shooting Helpful to reinforce frightening devices, futile for population reduction. Helpful to reinforce frightening devices, futile for population reduction. Helpful to reinforce frightening devices, futile for population reduction. Helpful to reinforce frightening devices, futile for population reduction. Helpful to reinforce frightening devices, futile for population reduction.

Introduction

The term blackbird loosely refers to a diverse group of about 10 species of North American birds that belong to the subfamily Icterinae. In addition to blackbirds, this subfamily includes orioles, meadowlarks, and bobolinks. The various species of blackbirds have several traits in common. The males are predominantly black or iridescent in color. All blackbirds have an omnivorous diet consisting primarily of grains, weed seeds, fruits, and insects. The relative proportions of these food groups, however, vary considerably among species. Outside of the nesting season, blackbirds generally feed in flocks and roost at night in congregations varying from a few birds to over one million birds. These flocks and roosting congregations are sometimes comprised of a single species, but often several species mix together. Sometimes they are joined by non-blackbird species, notably European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and American robins (Turdus migratorius).

The species also have many important differences in their nesting biology, preferred foods, migration patterns, and their damage and benefits to agriculture. Summarized below for each of seven species of blackbirds is information on identification, geographic range, preferred habitats, feeding habits, general biology, and damage.

Editors

Scott E. Hygnstrom; Robert M. Timm; Gary E. Larson

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