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Did anyone see this post about sunflower seed growers killing birds?

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likesmountains 52 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-05 11:24 AM
Original message
Did anyone see this post about sunflower seed growers killing birds?
Is this true for black oil sunflower seeds, and if so...how can you tell if the ones you buy are treated like this? Sorry, I do not know how to post a link so I just copied the post. It was in the lounge last week.

Original post:
fun fact: birdseed growers deliberately KILL songbirds!


Many people love to feed the birds. It's very pleasing to watch all the little birdies flocking around the feeder, gratefully enjoying the luscious bounty of sunflower seeds or corn.

Birds really go for that sort of food. If you think about it, what with all the birds out in farming country, it's amazing that any of that seed ever makes it out of the growers' fields. Wonder why the birds didn't just eat it all up before the harvest?

Meet Starlicide.

Starlicide is a brand name of DRC 1339, which is the chemical 3-chloro-4-methylbenzenamine hydrochloride. It's the only compound registered for use as a fully lethal, specific avicide in this country*.

The brand name comes from one of the substance's original uses: the killing of (non-native) starlings in livestock feedlots. But Starlicide has been used to kill many other species of birds in many other settings. A major current use of Starlicide is to kill the great masses of redwing blackbirds congregating in the sunflower fields that provide much of our packaged birdseed.

Starlicide is applied in the form of a laced bait, which is scattered about prior to crop ripening and harvest. The redwings eat the bait, and then die of kidney and liver failure. The poison is fairly slow-acting; the death process, counting from the ingestion of the fatal meal, can take up to three days.

Other birds that have nibbled the poisoned food may also sicken and die. Icterids are especially susceptible to this toxic chemical, but Starlicide can kill other sorts of birds too, if they eat enough of it.

Starlicide is not the only bird-control measure used in the process of getting the sunflower seeds to market. Farmers in the Great Plains have also used glyphosate to kill the marsh plants that redwings nest in (other growers simply bulldoze the plants). Additionally, other pesticides, including certain rodent baits, can be used to kill birds -- if one deliberately ignores the packet instructions and the applicable laws.

The USDA has long toyed with the idea of doing a mass Springtime poisoning of redwings, because they believe that this would be very effective in reducing crop losses. They haven't figured out yet what do about the estimated 150 tons of bird carcasses that this would generate.


Anyhow, that's just one chapter in the secret history of your birdfeeder. To feed the birds, you gotta kill a bunch of them first.




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amazona Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-05-05 12:12 PM
Response to Original message
1. ways to feed birds without killing birds
Edited on Tue Apr-05-05 12:14 PM by amazona
Maybe we haven't discussed this topic here before, in which case, sure, we should.

Absolutely no reason to kill birds to feed birds. I do not bother with the hassle of seed feeders at all. Hummingbird feeders are easily maintained, and create no mess, and you cook up your own sugar syrup by putting 1 cup of sugar to 4 or 5 cups of water on the stove. Bring to a boil, boil 5 minutes. Let cool or you'll melt your hummingbird feeder. Extra syrup keeps in the fridge until it is time to refill the feeders.

No seed hulls to clear away, no rodents being attracted to dropped seed. It's ideal.

Orange-crowned warblers and even house finches will try to use the feeders. Orioles can use the same sugar solution in an oriole feeder.

If you want to feed more birds, try making your own suet. There are as many recipes as there are birders, but don't skimp on the fat. I like melted suet or lard, chicken fat skimmed off my roasts and stocks, and peanut butter. Melt these fats together over low heat. It smells wonderful. For some reason the mix of chicken fat and peanut butter smells heavenly, although I dare not taste it. When the fat is cool but still melted, stir in enough cornmeal so you can make cakes. Put the cakes you aren't putting in the suet feeder in the freezer until you need them.

All kinds of birds go for this. Hmm. Cardinals, mockingbirds, chickadees, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, house finch, tufted titmouse and more I'm not thinking of right now. Starlings and grackles are uncommon for my yard but when they do find the suet feeder I enjoy them for a few days or hours until I tire of their gangs, and then I take down the suet feeder for a while until they go elsewhere.

As far as sunflower, if I am bound and determined to feed birds sunflower, I plant some myself in the wildflower garden for the birds to pick at.

Have fun. I'm sure other people will chime in with easy, safe ways to feed birds, in fact, ideas other people use (like mealworm tables for bluebirds, orange halves or marshmallows on sticks for orioles) spring to mind, but I'm sure there are many more.

P.S. Not sure I want to step in the "glysophate" versus mowing controversy. Mowing is not inherently more kind than glysophate if it chops up baby birds who can't escape. Glysophate is one of the safest, if not THE safest, herbicide out there for birds. I use it, and many other people concerned with native plant preservation use it, because otherwise we would be completely over-run with non-native vegetation by this time of century and that isn't so good for our native ecosystems either. Agree we always need to keep an eye on the U.S.D.A.'s ongoing crusade against the redwing blackbird and other "pest" species. Some protection of agriculture is necessary, but some of the depredation proposals are over-the-top and a waste of time, money, and wildlife. People like you and me need to speak out whenever we hear of a proposal that sounds hinky. Some redwing blackbird kills have been blocked or minimised as a result of people making noise.




The conservation movement is a breeding ground of communists
and other subversives. We intend to clean them out,
even if it means rounding up every birdwatcher in the country.
--John Mitchell, US Attorney General 1969-72


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blindpig Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-05 03:40 PM
Response to Original message
2. jesus, I had no idea!
does anyone know if this practice is universal or if some suppliers might be "clean"?

This really sucks, I've got about 50lb feeder capacity around my house. I think some of the feeders came from Audubon!
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amazona Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-05 07:19 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. a little more information
In theory you can buy organic sunflower but 2004 was a very bad growing year so you might have a bit of a hunt and the price might not really be reasonable for feeding wild birds. After poking around a little in an attempt to get some updated information, I'm inclined to think you can go on feeding your sunflower as the U.S.D.A. has been reined in, at least somewhat, on this issue.

Here's a link to a symposium on the problem. The National Audubon Society position is near the end, so you have to read down:

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/nwrc/symposia/blackbirds/a...

You'll see as you read down that it's a difficult issue since sunflower seeds are difficult to protect. Organic farms net each head which adds substantially to the cost because of the hand labor involved.

Most sunflower is not raised to feed birds. It is raised for oil. After several years of falling production, in part because of failure to find a way to deal with Redwinged Blackbirds without creating public outcry, sunflower production is again rising because of higher demand. (Sunflower oil can replace trans-fats which are being removed from the market for health reasons.) Even if no one ever bought any bird seed ever again, there would still be a growing commercial sunflower market.

A few years back, the U.S.D.A. proposed a huge program to poison Redwings and other crop pests. They are not a branch of Fish and Wildlife after all, their first concern to promote agriculture. Indeed, Fish and Wildlife objected to this proposal. Because of the public outcry, this huge program of mass poisoning was cancelled. Now the U.S.D.A. is still a little free at times with depredation permits, but they know they are being watched.

I don't think it's realistic to expect that no blackbirds will be killed where any grain is raised. Many (maybe most?) fields in Minnesota that are being converted to sunflower were formerly growing soy, which is no friend to the birds either. I guess my final answer is that U.S.D.A. knows that eyes are on them when they get too permit-happy.

The big problem is that every agency wishes to become more powerful and U.S.D.A./APHIS continue to propose large blackbird kills -- for instance in 2004, they proposed to kill 2 million blackbirds. Their proposal was again shot down after testimony from the Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the American Bird Conservancy and other groups.

We just have to keep an eye on U.S.D.A. They are trying to protect our food sources, but they go a bit overboard when not watched.


The conservation movement is a breeding ground of communists
and other subversives. We intend to clean them out,
even if it means rounding up every birdwatcher in the country.
--John Mitchell, US Attorney General 1969-72




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likesmountains 52 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-05 08:59 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. thank you Amazona
for your excellent replies to these concerns. I wish I could grow enough sunflower seeds to feed the birds but my growing season at almost 7000 feet is pretty short...I could never produce enough! I will start looking for organic seeds at my local bird shop...it just goes to show how intertwined all our actions are with the environment. Thank you again
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blindpig Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-05 07:04 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. many thanks
Pretty embarassing that I hadn't considered this issue. The points you make are sensible. Is there some sort of watchdog on the net that I might refer to?

Good thing the seed season is winding down in any case, looks like the Juncos and White Throats have taken off. Should have some Indigo Buntings & Rosebreasted Grosbeaks passing through in the next couple weeks, then just the residents.

Send me those hummingbirds! I'll be putting out my feeders Saturday.
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