Yes, mostly starlings; however, Red-Winged Blackbirds in AR and LA are a rice crop pest.
Washington, State, 2008:
Thousands of Dead Birds a Shock in Yakima County
"I apologize; we should have notified them," DeVries said. "The USDA did a controlled kill, but a lot of the birds fly in and fly out and they didn't know where some of them would end up.
So, why would it be a stretch to suspect the USDA Wildlife had a hand in AR and LA?
National Wildlife Research Center Scientists Address Blackbird Damage to Rice
Wildlife Services’(WS) National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) is the only Federal research facility devoted exclusively to resolving conflicts between people and wildlife through the development of effective, selective, and acceptable methods, tools, and techniques.
Blackbirds, specifically red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, and brown-headed cowbirds, cause extensive damage to newly planted rice and ripening rice.
Involved: Gowan Co and Syngenta
Or are bird flocks dying because of LRAD Bird Deterrent Technology:
For a nearly 5 minute demonstration of LRAD Bird Deterrent click on this link, then scroll to the bottom of the article, where you will see this option :
To view a video of the LRAD-B system in operation CLICK HERE and go to minutes 1:20 for capacity and 1:45-1:55 to watch RED WINGED BLACKBIRD demonstration!
If you click on CLICK HERE, you will be able to watch how bird flocks leap into the air when the LRAD directs a loud, shrill noise to "scare them away". Or is it pain that makes they fly away?
It can deliver recorded warnings in Arabic and, on command, emit a piercing tone…"[For] most people, even if they plug their ears, [the device] will produce the equivalent of an instant migraine," says Woody Norris, chairman of American Technology Corp., the San Diego firm that produces the weapon.
"It will knock [some people] on their knees." CBS News reported in 2005 that the Israeli Army first used the device in the field to break up a protest against Israel's separation wall.
"Protesters covered their ears and grabbed their heads, overcome by dizziness and nausea, after the vehicle-mounted device began sending out bursts of audible, but not loud, sound at intervals of about 10 seconds…
A military official said the device emits a special frequency that targets the inner ear."
If fireworks is a believable scientific explanation for how a "loud noise can cause a bird die off", how much more plausible would a die off be IF an LRAD device were used?
How do birds appear if killed by hail? Like this. A 1974 report of the Great Duck Die Off in Stuttgart, AR. Doesn't sound like hail caused the Red-Winged Blackbird die off.
Red-Winged Blackbirds are a problem for many crops.
Both the Common Grackle and Red-Winged Blackbird have been known to cause significant damage to crops.... Red-Winged Blackbirds can cause damage to other crops, such as oats, rice, sunflowers and sorghum. If you have a blackbird problem and need assistance keeping blackbirds away from your crops, contact a Critter Control professional today.
Arkansas and Louisiana have had a black bird problem for years. Here's a report:
In 1980, Congress responded to complaints of migratory bird damage to grain crops, principally rice, with added funding for enhanced Animal Damage Control (ADC) programs in Arkansas and Louisiana.
This resulted in the establishment of an office in Stuttgart, Arkansas (where the ducks in 1974 were hailed to death, see above) and a similar office in Crowley, Louisiana. Enabling legislation specifically directs the principal focus to be on rice/blackbird conflicts.
This paper will present a review of the problems addressed in Arkansas, techniques utilized and the author's assessment of their efficacy and acceptability.
But, aren't migrating Red-Winged Blackbirds protected under Federal Law? Yes.
Blackbirds are federally protected by the United States under Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.....as stated in federal laws regarding migratory birds (50 CFR 21). Additional blackbird killing restrictions will vary per state.
Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Black-capped Chickadee, Parus atricapillus
American Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus
Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis
Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum
Cliff Swallow, Hirundo pyrrhonota
Barn Owl, Tyto alba
Common Nighthawk, Chordeiles minor
Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens
Gray Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis
Mourning Dove, "Zenaida macroura"
Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
Swamp Sparrow, Melospiza georgiana
Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
Common Raven, Corvus corax
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
Or maybe the Red-Winged Blackbirds Treaty protections expired?
Remember the "Rubber Stamp Congress", so-called because there was a Republican President, Bush II, as well as a Republican controlled House and Senate? The 108th?
They Amended the Migratory Bird Treat Act.
Citation: 2004 Senate Bill 2547
Citation: s. 2547
Last Checked by Web Center Staff:
Summary: This Act, now known as the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act (MBTRA), revamps the MBTA by excluding species of birds that are "non-native" to the United States. Under the bill, a bird species shall not be treated as native to the United States if the species occurs in the United States solely as a result of intentional or unintentional human-assisted introduction after the date of adoption of the treaty in 1918.
As a result, some 94 species of birds currently protected under the treaty would lose their protected status.
In short, any bird species deemed to be introduced to the U.S. by humans after 1918 is not protected by the MBTA. Think Starlings!
Starlings are a problem species. And with no protection under law, the USDA has launched huge Starling kills as the solution. Again, made legal around 2004 by the 108th Congress' MBTRA.
Why would we discount the possibility that Arkansas and Louisiana are not using similar methods to get rid of the Red-Winged Blackbirds?
Well, I searched and found an evaluation of this change to the MBTA or the MBTRA.
It's irritating to read, but I didn't find any indication that the Red-Winged Blackbird has been removed from protection.
This notice identifies those species that are not protected by the MBTA, even though they belong to biological families referred to in treaties that the MBTA implements, as their presence in the United States and its territories is solely the result of intentional or unintentional human-assisted introductions.
In short, most confusing and might need to be revisited especially as the above quote does not include the date of appearance of the species to determine to its status as of the MBTA or 1918.
Unless a change in law can be found disqualifying the Red-Winged Blackbird from MBTA protection, if the Wildlife/USDA did kill off the Arkansas Red-Winged Blackbirds on New Years Eve, 2010, it is doubtful they will readily admit it without an investation.
And, if there was no intention of doing so, then why did the NWRC launch into such intense research into methods to poison Red-Winged Blackbirds?***
Here are some of the USDA's Wildlife Services Research for Blackbird Killing/Repelling accomplishments as of 2004, or shortly after the 108th changed the Migratory Bird Protection Treaty:
If you go to the following link you will find this important and interesting research report:
Agriculture: Wildlife Services Seeking Solutions Through Research
Services Management of Blackbird Damage to Rice
John Cummings, Wildlife Services Research Wildlife Biologist
4101 LaPorte Avenue
Fort Collins, CO 80521
Phone: (970) 266-6131 FAX: (970) 266-6138
Web site: www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/nwrc
• WS completed a rice producer survey of blackbird damage to rice in
Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, California and Texas.
• WS evaluated the efficacy of Aza-Direct, GG-orange terpene, caffeine and
GWN-4770 as potential blackbird repellents for use on rice seed and ripen-
ing rice to reduce blackbird damage.
• WS evaluated alternative baiting strategies for the effective and safe
delivery of DRC-1339, a toxicant for the control of depredating blackbird
• WS determined DRC-1339 dietary effects on several species of non-target
• WS determined blackbird response to several concentrations of DRC-1339.
• WS determined residue levels of DRC-1339 in soil and plants following
applications of the bait for blackbird control.
• WS determined the potential hazards of DRC-1339 to non-target bird spe-
• WS determined the movements and distribution of blackbird populations
causing damage to rice crops in Missouri.
Economic Assessment of Damage—A recent survey of rice pro-
ducers indicated that blackbirds caused over $13.5 million in dam-
age to rice in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, California, and Missouri during the 2001 crop year. Indirect economic losses, such as the cost of bird control devices and losses from government subsidy programs, were estimated at $3.4 million.
Survey results will help determine the direction damage management and research should move in the future.
Chemical Repellents—NWRC scientists conducted a series of
laboratory and field tests to identify, develop, and evaluate potential chemical repellents for reducing bird damage to newly-planted and ripening rice. Registration of a chemical repellent for seeded or headed rice could have a major impact on reducing damage losses and environmental hazards and increasing profitability.
DRC-1339 Baiting—NWRC scientists conducted DRC-1339 dose response and dietary toxicity tests on blackbirds; evaluated non-target species hazards of DRC-1339 in Louisiana, Missouri and Texas;
To reiterate, the USDA has not alerted residents in the past when they operated large bird kills.
Yakima, Washington, 2008
Marilyn Stapleton looked outside her backyard Saturday morning and thought one of the 10 plagues of Egypt had struck down the birds in east Moxee.
Hundreds of them lay motionless everywhere, and beyond her property lay bodies of thousands more. She spent several hours picking up the small black birds until she filled three trash bags, all the while wondering what the heck happened.
"They were just everywhere ... just like they fell right out of the sky," she said. "I was really upset because nobody said anything about this."
In New Jersey, 2009:
The targeted starlings, an invasive species that displaces native birds and fouls agricultural operations, consumed a slow-acting poison at a USDA monitored bait-site in Mercer County on Jan. 23, a Friday. But the birds did not remain on the site, as expected, and died on the weekend -- when federal officials were not around to handle calls from local officials.
Clay said starling treatments will not longer be done on Thursdays and Fridays in that area, and new protocols will be developed for working with local officials.
Federal authorities who killed hundreds of starlings that dropped from Somerset County skies last weekend promised New Jersey representatives today they will better notify local officials of future "treatments" of nuisance birds.
The promise from the Wildlife Services branch of the United States Agriculture Department was made in a letter to U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) following the commotion caused last week when the USDA launched an effort to kill 3,000 to 5,000 European starlings that were plaguing a Mercer County farmer.
I wonder who the farmer was?
Well, this may or not explain the die offs in Arkansas and Louisiana. However, the past behavior of USDA/Wildlife and the similarities are sufficient to warrant an inquiry.
What is surprising is the lack of suggestion by the media of this possibility. It didn't take very long for this writer to find the above information.
And, if the Red-Winged Blackbird is a protected migratory bird under the MBTA, and the law is being disregarded by the USDA/Wildlife then we might have a problem.
But maybe not. World Hunger is a huge problem. Rice is the hugest staple. Maybe food takes priorities over birds, even protected birds. Whose call is that?
The company has also increased its research on crop protection products and is working to develop and implement new agricultural techniques and training for farmers.
Syngenta, another sponsor of the International Rice Congress, also indicated that rice production needs to grow in order to meet population growth.
“With over 65 percent of the world’s hungry in Asia, progress in rice productivity is still lagging behind the advancements of other crops,” said Mike Mack, Syngenta CEO in a prepared statement. “Collaboration and partnerships must be embraced more extensively if we want to build a sustainable livelihood in rural economies for the world’s smallholder farmers, including the more than 200 million rice farmers in Asia, while helping to meet food security.”
The Asia Society and International Rice Research Institute estimate that rice production needs to grow by four million metric tons each year to remain constant with population growth, according to Syngenta.
Is 'four metric tons/year' a lot? Enough to warrant Red-Winged Blackbirdicide in Arkansas?
I hope people will call their State and Federal Representatives and demand answers and not just accept "fireworks, hail, and/or lightening" as probable causes for the deaths of 5,000 Red-Winged Blackbirds.
Now, for some Flox News Comic Relief, because heaven knows we all need some to clear out 2010 and prepare for 2011:
Inside the mind of a researcher:
Counting the Birds
I am including this information for the purpose of demonstrating a reporting trend, by officials and the media, that has been developing: conflicting quantative reports.
It is a concern because people are losing faith in both officials and the media to truthfully report. This trend is stimulating conspiracy theories, which become "news" for those who hear them and don't take the time to check for sources.
Flashback to the BP Oil Spill story. You may remember the amount of oil being leaked into the Gulf of Mexico was under estimated greatly until scientists got on the story and the amount soared to devastatingly high amounts, far, far in excess of BP and Government reporting.
While researching for this article, I noticed that there are many versions of the quantities of Red-Winged Blackbirds that fell to their death on New Years Eve in Beebe, Arkansas.
To demonstrate this, I have Google searched the following phrase changing only the quantity:
Arkansas "#### dead birds found". Here are the results:
Is it any wonder that people are distrustful of the news?
THE BIRDS DEATHS CONTINUE ELSEWHERE, January 6, 2011
I noticed when I searched "Arkansas "5000 birds died" that new stories were appearing for other areas, so I adjusted my Google Search to: "5,000 birds die" because most of the new bird die off stories mention the no-called Arkansas Aflockalypse:
Lastly, I limited the Google Search to "dead birds":
Falkoping, Sweden - 50-100 "Scared to Deathath by fireworks, fell in the road and were hit by cars" Swedish newspaper
The institute said they died due to "sudden, hard external blows," according to the press release. They had no signs of infection or other illnesses, and there were no external signs indicating what killed them.
"We have determined that the birds have died from severe internal bleedings caused by external blows," said the Institute's Marianne Elvander.
OK, I have to stop here and ponder. The labs are faster in Sweden to report.
The birds died from external blows causing internal bleeding BUT there were no external signs indicating what killed them.
Grackles and starlings seemed to rain on the countryside between Bastrop and Log Cabin for about five days in January 1999. “They died from a bacterial infection that caused *lesions in the brain, skull and adjoining tissue,” said Anthony. “All of the birds were emaciated, indicating that the infection had been present for some time.”
In 1999, several thousand grackles fell from the sky and staggered about before dying in north Louisiana. It took five months to get the diagnosis: an E. coli infection of the air sacs in their skulls.
Who do you believe?
What are the specific facts?
What I have learned from doing Research using the internet is that truly specific information may or may not be extracted; however, trends are certainly available.
There is/are trend(s) regarding mass bird die offs.
However, the reports of the actual cause(s) of the Beebe, Arkansas die of of 5,000ish Red-Winged Blackbirds seem fishy.
SPEAKING OF FISHY
CONCLUSION: It's all speculation until it isn't. We can only use the information available to us. Internet research has too many weak links to be conclusive, in my humble opinion.
Sadly, as budgets are stripped to the bone, independent research itself is at risk of a massive die off.