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Dear MoBsters,

Recently some one dragged down the MDC and one wildlife area in particular. Helton CA in SE Harrision Co, east of Bethany.

I have filmed several times in that location and each time very intentionally. There is a portion of Natural area where numerous native prairie species are still found. It is not large and Helton is a postage stamp in the midst of a wasteland of corn and beans. If there is one major error in modern “Wildlife Management” it is reliance on corn and row crops for any wildlife food value.

Sorry, but as an Ecologist- there were several aspects of this persons statements- which tripped my trigger. First- 

Ragweed is one of the VERY Best seed sources for winter birds. Each plant produces thousands of tiny seeds. Drives humans crazy - but if you really appreciate Quail…. That is what you need more of - not less. Ragweed is very high in Oil content so it is possibly the second MOST important winter food crop for numerous species . You want Bobwihte Quail? You find fence rows lined with Giant Ragweed ( Ambrosia trifida) . 

Jack Stamford's classic Bobwhite Quail studys cite Ragweed as an important winter food source. Many MDC lists also list ragweed.

Second, Helton suffers from the biogeographic Island effect. Everything else around it is denuded in winter by those who see “clean” farms as "good" farms. I grew up with farmers and my dad farmed extensively. So - don’t get me started. There is only about 30 acres of native prairie up there. Needs to be 2,500 acres.

Third- so to properly assess what has or has not occurred in a specific area, one needs a systematic long term method- like Breeding bird Surveys. BBS takes a look at habitat and annually censuses specific locations. The year after year accumulation builds one of the most important databases of any kind. That supplements the Christmas Bird Count nicely. Habitat and the numbers of birds.

Ring-necked Pheasants are a pest species and should be eradicated from Missouri and adjacent states. MRBC whines about Mute Swans which breed prolifically in Illinois areas and occur as natural vagrants from those populations, meanwhile, RNPH dump eggs  in our native prairie chicken nests which actively harm nesting success.

Quail - like many other species are best “managed” in terms of annual needs. One must provide winter-cover, brood-rearing cover (which are often NOT the same). IMO- long term studies of effects of current weed suppressants - eg. Round up etc are insufficient to properly see the effects of residues turning up in bird populations. Everything I see is showing greater problems with herbicide, pesticide and all sprays which are not receiving long term analysis BEFORE being used widely.

So this ignorant approach of spray first- study later will bring us to a new "Silent Spring” soon enough.

This is why recovery is so difficult for species like Bobwhite Quail or Prairie Chickens. You kill off the required insects for broods too. I have been talking about Allen Kredibaughs Loggerhead Shrike study for at least 40 years… no one cares enough to DO anything about it.

My final word on Giant Ragweed- my “yard” may look like crap to some, (I have over 700 linear feet of Giant Ragweed) but I had over 30 Cardinals, 30 White-throated Sparrows, 6-7 White-crowned sparrows, 12 Fox Sparrows, Swamp Sparrow and others- all winter long. They stayed well into mid- April.

My 17 acres is in “rehab”. Over the next 15 years- ti will become paradise for many birds. Quail may never show up here for long, because of the wasteland which surrounds me, and the small area which I can devote to them specifically, but many other species will benefit.


Martin, A.C., Zim, H.S., Nelson, A.L. (1951). American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits. New York: Dover Publications.

Scott, M. (2013). Songbird Diet Index. National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, St. Cloud, MN.

On-Line References:

USDA, NRCS. 2015. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 4 January 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA

Thanks so much for an opportunity to correct misinformation.


Timothy Barksdale
Birdman Productions LLC
P.O.Box 1124
69 Mountain View Dr.
Choteau, MT 59422

Missouri: Birdman Adventures LLC

Timothy dot barksdale at gmail dot .com

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The information transmitted (including attachments) is covered by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. 2510-2521, is intended only for the person(s) or entity/entities to which it is addressed and might contain confidential and/or privileged material. Any review, retransmission, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon, this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient(s) is prohibited. If you received this in error, please contact the sender and delete the material from any computer.   

In addition to the above, you may be receiving copyrighted material and be subject to violation of United States Laws.

Birdman Productions LLC and Birdman Adventures LLC will vigorously defend intellectual material, proprietary material and prosecute theft, or plagiarism to the fullest extent of the law.

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