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Baiting program to aid farmers facing pest problems

By: Keith Fontenot
LSU AgCenter Extension Office

As rice farmers prepare for the 2014 crop, they are also getting ready for hordes of blackbirds that eat newly planted seed. Blackbird losses cause thin or failed stands, requiring farmers to spend many dollars to replant the fields.
Also a problem species is the brown headed cowbird which make up a large percentage of the blackbird population. They are responsible for destroying tremendous numbers of songbirds by laying their eggs in the songbird nest. According to “The Birds of North America” (Number 47, 1993) female cowbirds can lay almost daily during the breeding season, up to 40 eggs each spring, all in the nests of other species. Not only will the female cowbird lay eggs in the songbird nest, but she will usually remove the songbird egg in the process. Even if she doesn’t, the cowbird egg has a shorter incubation period, so it will hatch first, and young songbirds cannot compete with the bigger cowbird chick, which the mother songbird feeds to maturity.
Because of the locally severe damage caused by blackbirds to sprouting rice in southwest Louisiana, officials with U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and the LSU AgCenter will be cooperating with local rice growers in a baiting program to control these bird populations.
The baiting program will begin in mid-February through the end of March, depending on the number of birds. A product called DRC 1339 will be used again this year to help control blackbirds.
Bait will be applied under the supervision of U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service personnel trained in pest bird management procedures. Although dead blackbirds do not present a significant hazard to humans or pets, officials recommend that they be buried, and that no blackbirds be eaten.
The baiting program originated from efforts of the statewide rice growers associations with help from the Louisiana Farm Bureau.
For more details, call the USDA/Wildlife Services Office at (225) 389-0229 in Port Allen.

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