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Birds don’t always like what they see

Cara J

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Each spring, an estimated 52 million blackbirds migrate north into the northern Great Plains of the United States. In the fall these birds and their offspring, totaling 75 million, drift southward feeding on sunflower, corn, rice and other grain crops, costing farmers millions of dollars. Scientists at the USDA-Wildlife Services’ National Wildlife Research Center have long-standing partnerships with private companies and industry groups to investigate nonlethal bird and rodent repellent compounds, formulations, and application strategies for reducing wildlife damage. One such partnership with Arkion Life Sciences has resulted in a new repellent strategy and a suite of nonlethal repellent products that use a naturally-occurring compound called anthraquinone, or AQ. AQ was first patented as a bird repellent in 1944 to reduce bird damage to agricultural crops. At that time, the assumed mode of action was post-ingestive stress (an unpleasant sickness in the birds that eat it). Recent NWRC-Arkion research has shown that AQ can also cause avoidance behaviors in birds through visual cues related to the compound’s absorption of the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum. “Birds don’t always like what they see,” states NWRC research wildlife biologist Dr. Scott Werner. “Our studies with captive blackbirds have shown that the birds rely on [...]

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