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?