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Bye Bye Blackbird: USDA Admits Responsibility for Mass Bird Death; 4 Million Birds Killed in ’09

bye_bye_blackbirdThe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had admitted responsibility for the poisoning of thousands of birds, many of which were found dead on the ground and frozen in trees in Yankton, South Dakota on Monday.

According to Truthout, the USDA’s Wildlife Services Program works with farmers to cull birds which often eat large quantities of agricultural feed and defecate on livestock and farm equipment. There’s even a name for this little-known government bird control program: Bye Bye Blackbird. In 2009 alone, the USDA killed more than four million red-winged blackbirds, starlings, cowbirds and grackles.

Pesticides are the weapon of choice; an avian poison called DRC-1339 was used in the Yankton case. Up to 5,000 birds were sprayed in neighboring Nebraska and somehow managed to make it to South Dakota before dying. The USDA stresses that this incident is in no way related to the mass bird deaths that have made headlines this year, most notably in Arkansas and Louisiana.

Under the Bye Bye Blackbird program, farmers are allowed to kill any blackbirds, grackles and starlings deemed to be a health risk or damaging to the economy. Farmers often hire private contractors to do the dirty work.

“Every winter, there’s massive and purposeful kills of these blackbirds,” Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation at the National Audubon Society told Truthout.

Carol Bannerman, a spokeswoman for USDA Wildlife Services, dismisses the obvious animal cruelty implications of such killings.

“It’s not that we have anything against starlings, but our charge is to help protect agriculture… and protect property and human health or safety,” she said. “And the fact is, in a lot of rural settings, people say, ‘It’s just birds, what’s the problem?'”

It’s “just birds”… including some endangered ones. Ornithologists believe the mass killings may be reducing the number of the rare rusty blackbird, which roosts with more common varieties of blackbirds. With private contract killers not required to keep tabs of how many birds they kill, the rusty blackbird could be in serious danger.

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  1. Brennan BrowneJanuary 21, 2011 at 5:57 pmReply

    This kind of flippant, life-snuffing, psychopathic attitude toward inflicting mass speciescide on everything we consider “pests or expendable” is the very reason our planet has now gone warp-speed over the precipice toward our own destruction. Blind, stupid and selfish, the warning signs are everywhere. Massive die-offs of thousands of different species should be a wake-up call to the fact that humans are the biggest “vermin” threatening our own existence…and yet we refuse to change our parasitic behavior. Instead, we have clueless moronic mouthpieces like Carol Bannerman, of the USDA Wildlife Services, which is directly responsible for murdering 4.1 million animals in 2009 ALONE — and in the most vile, inhumane and destructive ways possible. We have to ask ourselves why the monsters among us are in charge of our most helpless and precious beings. This planet is doomed…and at the rate we are massacring it, I give us 10 more years.

    • ChristineJanuary 1, 2012 at 9:28 amReply

      Very scary stuff indeed. While the average citizen still has no say in what the government does, we still remain responsible for what they get away with. This should be brought to the forefront and given a proper vote before the killing is allowed to go on. Whatever happened to the “government by the people and for the people”?!

    • AaronJanuary 6, 2012 at 1:56 pmReply


      You mean to tel me that you would not killa rat that was eating out of your childs cerial bowl, or put a stop to somehitng that was reducing your take home pay? That is what these birds were doing to the farmer that had them poisoned. Life-stuffing, adn phychopathic is way, way, way, too extreme. Its a farmer protecting his lively hood. I think you have gone warp speed over the deep end.

      • DennisJanuary 6, 2012 at 5:49 pmReply

        You’re comparing the death of ONE animal that is normally considered a pest to the deaths of over 4,000,000 BIRDS? What kind of backwards, backwoods logic is this?

  2. Jo WillsonJanuary 5, 2012 at 4:59 amReply

    Once again I am appalled at the lack of intelligence of those in power in our country. They appear not to understand the relationships between various species, as they relate to humans. There are many “knee jerk” reactions; which later prove to be disastrous for us. Why don’t we stop electing those poor decision makers?

  3. BJJanuary 5, 2012 at 7:18 amReply

    I’d like to know what they do with the dead birds. Surely they do not leave them where they fall; where scavenger-birds, birds of prey, foxes, etc are able to eat them…and so too die! I’d really like a response from someone who knows…

  4. BJJanuary 5, 2012 at 7:22 amReply

    Okay, watched the video clip I hastily passed over in my ire…and it clearly shows at least some of the poisoned birds fly away to die elsewhere. They mention the poison is not harmful to other animals or pets…does that mean eating the poisoned birds will not poison the feeder? I do hope so.

  5. ModernizePleaseOctober 26, 2014 at 12:59 pmReply

    It seems the feds set practices in effect and never reevaluate. Kill, kill, kill.

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