Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blackbirds in the Sunflowers

 During the beauty of the bloom, this sunflower field looked happy, even with a few birds flying around. However experience made me suspicious. There were a few on the wire above the field and they seemed to be overseeing the flock below. I wondered if the young birds were receiving instructions on how to destroy this field.
I drove further down the road and observed this class in session. No doubt in my mind. The birds were anticipating the delightful meals the field would offer in a few short weeks.  I could imagine Professor Blackbird, perched on the tall sunflower serving as a podium saying,"Sunflower seeds are the most mature on the outer part of the flower. Large sunflower heads mean large blackbird meals." and "No restroom facilities are provided so feel free to leave droppings whenever you need to."
I'm not a blackbird expert, but I think that they were paying attention to their instruction. Just imagine what a mess these birds are making in this beautiful field. Professor Blackbird told them, 
"Why pay for what you can take for free? You will have to hunt far and wide to find bird feeders with a finer gourmet meal. Eat! Grow! Fly! EAT!"
Click on the National Sunflower Association website to learn more about Sunflowers. The photo gallery is especially interesting with photos of beautiful sunflowers and problems that occur in the crop.
This year the sloughs in GriggsDakota are all full of water. A water source nearby makes the fields of sunflowers especially vulnerable to blackbirds. There are means of waging battle with the birds, including using timed boomers that sound like shotgun blasts. There are also commercial products. They help somewhat, but the battle is never over. Sunflower fields that hold a 2000 pound per acre potential can be taken down to almost nothing. We've seen fields harvested at 300 pounds or less because of bird damage.
The best defense is early planting and early harvest. There is no more bird damage once the seeds are in the bin. We need sunshine and warm fall days to get that done.


  1. We saw this first-hand last year, with our first little field of sunflowers. And then it was too wet to harvest. So we had fun enjoying the beauty, but it was NOT a good crop for us last year.

  2. These photos are amazing, Jane. Looks like clouds of blackbirds!! Your blog is so awesome...!! I check for it every day. Proud of you JK!!

    Love- R and "boys"

  3. So sad to see those birds eating on those beautiful sunflowers. But every crop has it's own set of pests wether it's black birds, deer or raccoons. My husband is from Wisconsin and they have trouble with Sandhill Cranes eating their corn. I guess that's one more thing that keeps farming challenging.