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USDA to Poison Six Million Red-wings

Male Red-winged Blackbird on display
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing to kill by poison 2 million blackbirds a year for three years starting this Spring.

The poisoning threatens to kill numerous other birds including the steeply declining populations of grassland songbirds. The Department is conducting the blackbird poisoning in an effort to reduce sunflower crop damage in the Northern Plains (i.e., Dakotas). The Audubon Society, as do we (Wild Birds for the 21st Century), oppose the blackbird-poisoning program because it cannot be justified on economic or scientific grounds.

APHIS's (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - part of the USDA) very own studies have not shown that killing large numbers of Red-winged blackbirds is effective in reducing damage to sunflower crops. Blackbirds are estimated to damage about one to two percent of the $300 million annual production of sunflowers.

It should be further noted that poisoned birds leave poisoned fields which the public must pay to clean up. (See Murder in the Midwest, 1990) Perhaps it's time we asked how many Congressmen and women, and major Administrative Personnel hold stock in AgriBusiness and its collaterals.

Female Red-winged Blackbird with protective coloring
To be of immediate help to stop this program, please contact Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and urge her to end the poisoning of red-winged blackbirds in North and South Dakota:

Wet weather this spring may have briefly delayed this plan. Red-winged Blackbirds are beautiful native American birds. They are a protected species and have a right to be here. Perhaps you could lose your taste for edible sunflower seeds for awhile (David's, owned by ConAgra Foods is the largest producer), or other products.

- J. Keating

Photographs copyright and special courtesy of Don DesJardin, Ventura, California.

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