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Legal Bird Pesticide to Blame for Dozens of Dead Birds in NJ

It’s a sight I hope I never have to see.

Michelle Cavalieri was among numerous people who witnessed dozens of birds fall from the sky last week in New Jersey, according to an article at NJ.com. The Red-winged Blackbirds dropped out of the sky early in the morning and attempted to stand up before collapsing dazed and paralyzed. It was such an odd and horrific event that it could only be described as “crazy.”

But the craziest part about the whole incident is why the birds fell out of the sky and died. They were poisoned…legally.

After residents of Cumberland County called health officials—presumably very alarmed—the Cumberland County Department of Health reported that the blackbirds died as a result of a granular pesticide called Avitrol Double Strength Corn Chops, which was applied at a nearby farm.

Here’s more from the county’s press release about the matter:

The Department of Health reports that Monday evening Ingraldi Farms applied a granular pesticide intended and approved to cull birds, causing an unusually high volume of dead birds in the area of Ingraldi Farms and Whitemarsh Estates in Millville.

The material used; Avitrol Double Strength Corn Chops (EPA reg. # 11649-5) is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and intended to be used for bird control for Blackbirds, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Cowbirds, Grackles, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Rusty Blackbird, Starlings and Yellow-Headed Blackbirds.

To be clear, “culling” birds is a nice way of saying controlling populations by exterminating or preventing a bird’s life.

The situation is not as black and white as you might think it is though. While bird lovers will adamantly argue that killing birds is wrong under any circumstances, what the farmer did was perfectly legal, even though Red-winged Blackbirds are protected under the Migratory Bird Act, as pointed out by Melissa Mayntz at About Birding.

There is a provision in the act that says certain species, like blackbirds, can be legally culled if they are committing depredation on crops or agriculture and a permit is obtained, which this New Jersey farm received. During a time when severe droughts around the country are leading to small yields and high prices, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure crops are protected.

Still, it’s hard to condone culling birds, especially if it’s causing the poor birds to fall sick and dying out of the sky onto a residential neighborhood.

What do you think? Is this a case of a reasonable use of pesticide to get rid of invasive and destructive birds, or is it an unnecessary and harmful interaction with nature?

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.

4 Comments

  1. No, killing the birds is never right. The birds in the blackbird family are important and serve many useful purposes in nature. I’m sure they weren’t the only birds killed-there are many other birds who will be affected by this posioning. Now, who wants to eat the grain the pesticide was applied to? Not I !!!

  2. It’s unnecessary and harmful to the environment. Not to mention the birds. Don’t see crows on the list, nor ravens, sparrows and all the other ground feeding birds.. Guess they better not eat any poison intended for those OTHER birds. What kind of grain was it? The kind they put in birdseed????

  3. Boycott anyone who thinks that poisoning animals is a solution to a problem. So what’s next for this farm, poisoning all the blackbirds in the area, then poisoning the crows/geese/ducks too?

  4. thanks for using my photo-plismo

Comments are closed.