Shortlisted for the 2018 TWS Wildlife Publication Awards in the edited book category
The various species of new world blackbirds, often intermingled in large foraging flocks and nighttime roosts, collectively number in the hundreds of millions and are a dominant component of the natural and agricultural avifauna in North America today. Because of their abundance, conspicuous flocking behavior, and feeding habits, these species have often been in conflict with human endeavors.
The pioneering publications on blackbirds were by F. E. L. Beal in 1900 and A. A. Allen in 1914. These seminal treatises laid the foundation for more than 1,000 descriptive and experimental studies on the life histories of blackbirds as well as their ecology and management in relation to agricultural damage and other conflicts such as caused by large winter roosting congregations. The wealth of information generated in over a century of research is found in disparate outlets that include government reports, conference proceedings, peer-reviewed journals, monographs, and books.
For the first time, Ecology and Management of Blackbirds (Icteridae) in North America summarizes and synthesizes this vast body of information on the biology and life histories of blackbirds and their conflicts with humans into a single volume for researchers, wildlife managers, agriculturists, disease biologists, ornithologists, policy makers, and the public. The book reviews the life histories of red-winged blackbirds, yellow-headed blackbirds, common grackles, and brown-headed cowbirds. It provides in-depth coverage of the functional roles of blackbirds in natural and agricultural ecosystems. In doing so, this authoritative reference promotes the development of improved science-based, integrated management strategies to address conflicts when resolutions are needed.
History of Research and Management, Policy and Regulations of Blackbirds. Red-winged Blackbirds. Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Common Grackles. Brown-headed Cowbirds. Effects of Habitat and Climate Change on Blackbird Populations. Population Dynamics and Management of Blackbird Populations. Repellents. Frightening Devices. Evading Strategies. Case Study: Using Harvest Theory and the Prescribed Take Level Framework to Assess Allowable Take of a Population of Red-winged Blackbirds in the northern Great Plains. The Economic Impacts of Bird Damage to Crops. The Future of Blackbird Management in United States.
Recommended by CHOICE (January 2018 Vol. 55 No. 5) for upper-division undergraduates and above; faculty and professionals.
The beauty of a displaying territorial male red-winged blackbird pales when magnified a million fold. Blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles, and starlings are among the most conspicuous and abundant North American birds and gather in huge flocks in the non-breeding season. These birds can inflict costly damage on crops, and their huge roosts can be a nuisance. Mainly through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, researchers have studied the biology of these birds and invested in a variety of "control methods." Red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds, cowbirds, and grackles each merit a chapter reviewing their ecology. General chapters address economic impacts, habitat and climate change, and management, including repellents, frightening devices, and lethal methods. A chapter on preventive strategies for avoiding damage is unique, and the chapter entitled "The Future of Blackbird Management Research" is promising. Each chapter has its own extensive bibliography. Additionally, each chapter is a valuable contribution to the comprehension of blackbird’s "functional roles." This work will also benefit those who handle the management of blackbird flocks and roosts. Inexplicably, there is hardly a mention of the European starling, which also forms huge, hungry flocks and roosts in urban areas.
--M. Gochfeld, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School