The distinctive crimson and yellow markings of the red wing blackbird may seem appealing at first glance. But anyone who has contended with a swarm of these birds knows they quickly become a nuisance. From incessant noise to ruined crops and messy droppings, red wing blackbirds can wreak havoc if left unchecked.
Getting rid of red wing blackbirds takes commitment and diligence. But you can reclaim your yard, garden and fields by using strategic control methods. This guide explores proven techniques for both removing red wing blackbirds and preventing their return. Read on to discover safe, humane ways to rid your property of these frustrating fowl for good.
What Makes Red Wing Blackbirds Problematic
First, let’s briefly examine what makes red wing blackbirds such challenging creatures to manage.
Native to North and Central America, the red wing blackbird is a very social bird species found across fields, wetlands and rural areas. Weighing 1.5 to 3 ounces, these small birds form enormous flocks during the summer breeding season that can include up to 1,000 individuals.
Male red wing blackbirds are identifiable by the red and yellow shoulder patches that give them their name. Females have more subdued brown and white streaked plumage. Their incessant call is a distinctive “oak-a-lee” song.
Here are some reasons red wing blackbirds cause issues for property owners:
- Messy nests – Red wing blackbirds build sturdy nests out of wet vegetation in reeds, shrubs and grasses. Their mud nests often end up littering walls, gutters and yard structures.
- Aggressive males – Territorial males relentlessly defend nesting sites, even attacking humans that get too close. They’re known to dive bomb intruders.
- Noise pollution – Flocks chatter loudly all day, disrupting the peace with constant shrill calling.
- Crop damage – Large flocks descend on fields and decimate crops like rice, corn, sorghum and fruit crops.
- Droppings accumulation – Roosting flocks leave behind mounds of messy droppings that must be constantly cleaned up.
- Parasite transmission – Red wings carry ectoparasites and can transmit dangerous pathogens like salmonella and encephalitis virus.
Clearly, these birds can become more than a nuisance when allowed to breed unchecked. Next, let’s explore your options for removing red wing blackbirds humanely and safely.
Physical Removal of Red Wing Blackbirds
Manually eliminating individual red wing blackbirds is highly labor intensive. But for small-scale infestations, physical removal can provide immediate relief. Here are two humane physical control methods:
When correctly implemented, trapping is an effective and ethical way to remove red wing blackbirds. Specialized bird traps designed to safely contain live blackbirds are available for purchase or DIY construction.
The most common style is a decoy trap, consisting of a large plywood or wire mesh enclosure baited with food and a decoy bird. Perched flocks are lured inside but unable to find their way out. Provide food and water until the trap can be transported away and released.
For best results, set up traps in areas with high bird activity. Move traps frequently to avoid acclimation. And ensure they are sheltered from weather extremes to keep birds comfortable.
Since red wings are so protective of nests, manually removing them can motivate birds to abandon the site. Using gloves and proper safety precautions, dismantle nests in the early breeding season before eggs develop.
Focus on eliminating nests closest to high-traffic areas around your home first, as these males tend to be most aggressive. Just beware of defensive attacks when approaching nests.
Regular nest destruction combined with excluding birds from nesting sites makes areas considerably less inviting. But realize that resourceful red wings may simply rebuild nearby, requiring relentless diligence.
For anything beyond minor infestations, relying solely on physical removal becomes highly impractical. So let’s look at chemical deterrents that make areas inhospitable for red wing blackbirds.
Using Chemical Controls on Red Wing Blackbirds
Certain chemicals make red wing blackbirds uncomfortable enough to avoid treated areas. When used properly, chemical controls are a safe and effective part of an integrated management plan:
Specially-formulated chemical repellents provide temporary relief from blackbird flocks. These non-toxic products use sensory irritation to deter birds from treated areas.
Look for repellents containing the active ingredient methyl anthranilate, a non-toxic grape extract. Other options include bird gel containing the irritant capsaicin, derived from chili peppers.
Apply repellent directly to surfaces where birds nest and perch. Reapply after rain or as directed on the product label. Use proper protective gear when handling.
In extreme cases, pesticide fogging with labeled chemicals provides temporary emergency relief from massive descending flocks. Fogging large fields or roosting sites disperses birds immediately.
However, great care must be taken only to apply Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved products precisely as directed. Never use any pesticide without first consulting state regulations and an expert.
Improper use of restricted chemicals can have disastrous impacts on bird populations, ecosystems, and human health. Only consider fogging under guidance of wildlife management authorities as an absolute last resort.
Pesticides for Food Sources
Insecticides and herbicides that impact blackbird food sources are sometimes used to discourage flocks. For example, wetting agents added to rice fields make the grain less appealing.
Again, extreme caution is urged. Any broader impacts of pesticide use on wildlife and the environment must be carefully weighed beforehand. Often, the risks and consequences outweigh any benefits.
When using chemical controls, the goal is not to harm birds but simply make areas less attractive. Next, let’s discuss more lasting solutions through habitat modification.
Deterring Red Wing Blackbirds by Habitat Modification
Since red wing blackbirds are drawn to certain habitat conditions, modifying your property’s landscape can reduce its appeal over time:
Remove Vegetation Near Buildings
Red wings seek shrubs and dense vegetation as nesting sites and night roosts. Pruning back overgrown branches within about 50 feet of structures eliminates protective cover.
Concentrate on cutting back nesting habitat around houses, barns, and other buildings first to displace birds from high-traffic zones.
Drain Wet Areas
Standing water, cattails, and reed beds provide ideal nesting habitat. Draining or filling in soggy areas and ponds eliminates the wetland ecosystems red wing blackbirds rely on.
Consult local ordinances first, as protected wetlands cannot legally be drained without permitting. Focus instead on altering wetlands on your actual property if possible.
Manage Water Sources
Bird baths, livestock troughs, and irrigation provide ready water sources that appeal to red wing blackbirds. Eliminate outdoor water features and alter irrigation to limit available water on your property.
Providing livestock with water only as needed rather than leaving troughs full reduces appeal for birds. Aim to attract birds to water sources away from your home.
Choose Landscaping Wisely
When landscaping your yard, avoid plants like buckthorn, dense hedges, and prickly shrubs that create protective nesting spots. Instead choose open, spread out plants that lack thick cover.
Discourage nesting right next to buildings by planting only grasses and ground cover near foundations rather than dense vegetation.
Over time, methodically modifying habitat sends the message that your property is an unfavorable place for red wing blackbirds to settle. But preventing their return also requires cultural techniques.
Cultural Control Methods for Red Wing Blackbirds
Implementing certain cultural practices can make your property even less attractive long-term:
Remove Food Sources
Bird feeders, pet food, and garbage provide food sources that appeal to red wing blackbirds. Remove outdoor food sources like hanging bird feeders or pet bowls.
Keep trash securely contained and pick up scattered animal feed in fields. Reducing food availability helps convey that your property does not support their survival.
Use Visual Scare Devices
Visual deterrents like fake predators, reflective tape, and inflatable tube men make blackbirds cautious. Install owl decoys, mylar tape, or flashing holiday lights in problem roosting spots.
Scarecrows placed in fields along with aluminum pie pans hung to shine and clang in the wind can frighten off incoming flocks from crops. Relocate devices frequently to prevent acclimation.
Red wing blackbirds dislike loud noises and will avoid areas where frightened. Propane cannons, banging pots and pans, or playing talk radio when flocks appear helps scare them away.
Fireworks, noisemakers, and other disturbance devices may be used to frighten problematic night roosts in agricultural settings when permitted.
Handheld lasers provide a humane way to scare nuisance flocks from yards or buildings at night. Scan a safe laser beam across roosts and birds will quickly disperse.
Never aim lasers directly at birds’ eyes. Follow proper usage guidelines to avoid hazarding aircraft or neighbors. But lasers provide an effective, non-lethal dispersal method.
The key with cultural techniques is persistence. Continue applying multiple changing tactics so blackbirds don’t become comfortable on your property.
Preventing Red Wing Blackbirds from Returning
Deterring red wing blackbirds today is only half the battle. You also must implement measures to keep them from settling again:
Block Access to Buildings
Seal gaps and openings to prevent blackbirds from nesting or roosting in attics, rafters, vents, and crawl spaces. Use hardware cloth, roof flashing, caulk and other barriers to exclude their entry completely.
Restrict access under decks and porches using bird netting. Eliminate all cozy, protected spaces that entice nest building.
Install Bird Spikes
Prevent roosting on ledges, signs, and roof peaks using porcupine wire spikes or coil spikes that comfortably discourage perching.
Look for stainless steel or UV-resistant plastic spikes to ensure durability. Position them wherever droppings accumulate to stop birds settling in.
Apply Roost Repellents
Make potential nesting spots uncomfortable by applying tacky gels and pastes. Look for non-toxic, non-stick bird repellent gels to apply on ledges, rafters, signs and other surfaces prone to nests.
The sticky texture instantly deters birds from landing. Reapply after rain to keep sites unsuitable for nest building. Use thick disposable gloves when handling.
Set Up Physical Barriers
For especially problematic crops, install netting, wires, or reflective tape as physical barriers to deny birds access. Sturdy wire or nylon netting can effectively exclude flocks from precious berries and orchard crops.
Mylar tape strung in rows over fields flickers menacingly to deter extensive crop raids. Position barriers to protect the most susceptible crops.
Use Predator Calls
Broadcasting predator cries triggers a natural aversion response in red wing blackbirds. Playing recorded hawk, owl or crow calls spontaneously scares them from settling in.
This works best when calls are played intermittently from electronic game callers positioned near potential roosts. Irregular predatory noises disturb their sense of safety.
With constant diligence and a multi-pronged approach, you can defend your property permanently against red wing blackbird infestation.
Red wing blackbirds can quickly become a scourge for property owners unprepared for their tenacious nesting and massive seasonal flocks. Getting rid of your red wing blackbird problem requires integrating multiple tailored control techniques.
For immediate relief, traps and nest removal provide ethical physical control if repeatedly implemented. Repellents make areas uncomfortable for birds in the short term as well.
But permanently reclaiming your space relies on longer-term habitat modification, cultural changes and exclusion barriers that persuade red wings to settle elsewhere.
Commit to the effort needed to methodically implement various hazing, dispersal and exclusion tactics. Look for seasonal patterns and be especially vigilant during summer nesting months when red wings are most stubborn.
With an adaptable, insistent approach focused on prevention, you can successfully get rid of red wing blackbirds for good and enjoy your property free of their nuisance behavior. The red wings may return each season, but your consistent control efforts will convince them to move on in search of a more welcoming habitat.