Canadian Songbird Loses Weight When Given Neomicotinoid Pesticide Imidacloprid

Pesticides have side effects on animals and humans. A particular neonicotinoid pesticide is making birds lose weight. In Canadian research crowned sparrows were given low and high amounts of imidaclprid on seeds. Even birds on the low dose lost weight within six hours compared to a control group. The high amount killed some birds. It seems that appetite is suppressed.

White-crowned sparrow

The aves who received the low dose had transmitters attached and were released. Those on the low dose did not leave for three days and those on the high dose left in four days. The control birds flew within half a day.  It is believed that imidacloprid had to be worked out of the body.

Only a minuscule amount of the pesticide stopped the birds from eating. Earlier research has shown that imidacloprid kills bees. It means the whole bird and insect family is susceptible to the pesticide. Something has to be done.

Both groups of birds ate agricultural seed from crops and fattened up before migrating in Spring. Those given the pesticide had no long term effects. They gained weight thus recovering, reaching the nesting ground at the same time as control birds.

There is an open question here. Birds that arrive late at breeding grounds do not get good nesting "facilities". They hatch young later and have fewer chicks. Could this be why 74 per cent of birds in agricultural regions have declines since 1966?

Common neonicotinoid insecticide causes rapid weight loss, migration interruption songbird Share Share Facebook Share Twitter Print Mail share option sparrow perched hand fine transmitter wire coming back. sparrows fitted fine transmitters migrations tracked. (Supplied: Margaret Eng) pesticide commonly used Australia been experimentally shown cause rapid weight loss migrating songbird, disrupt ability migrate. Key points: Birds high doses ate cent less food shed lots weight first six hours Birds given pesticide delayed migration three four days banning neonicotinoids backfire farmers higher amounts types insecticides cause problems White-crowned sparrows Canada given small, sublethal dose imidacloprid — neonicotinoid insecticide control birds given none. dose meant equivalent much birds ingest eating few small, insecticide-coated seeds. Seed coating common practice crop seeds doused insecticide, absorbed plant grows present pollen. birds given low dose, given higher dose, given none. birds treated both high low doses shed significant weight six hours, compared control birds didn't, according research published today journal Science. "birds exposed big enough dose, [it's] lethal. small handful seeds enough kill songbird," Christy Morrissey University Saskatchewan, led study. "seeing incidental dose substantial effect. researchers found insecticide "anorexic" effect, birds higher dose consuming cent less food controls six hours following dosing. migrating birds fitted lightweight transmitters released Ontario, Canada, movements tracked network research towers. Antenna solar panel green pasture. network receiver towers allowed researchers track birds' migration. (Supplied: Margaret Eng) On average untreated birds continued migration half day, birds been given imidacloprid delayed departure three days low dose four days high. hypothesis treated birds spent extra days working insecticide system, regenerating fat stores continue migration. amount gave cause delay miniscule," Professor Morrissey "Essentially equivalent giving bird -tenth corn seed treated neonicotinoids." While been evidence linking neonicotinoids bee mortality colony collapse, Professor Morrissey her research showed impacts pesticides much more widespread. "It bee problem, water problem, pretty compelling case birds [insecticides] having pretty serious effect." Banning neonicotinoids backfire Compounding issue many birds migrate spring, coincides seeding many crops, according Professor Morrissey. species North America agriculture habitat feed rest, migratory species pretty critical need fat fuel source migratory journeys." After regaining weight, birds given insecticide continued migration difference detected direction speed migration compared control birds. delaying migration ripple effects beyond immediate impacts bird. exposing increased predation recover insecticide, birds arrive late nesting grounds been shown secure poorer territory, breed later, produce fewer offspring. North America, cent farmland-dependent bird species been decline 66, authors state. dead galah. Imidacloprid been linked deaths Australian birds. (Supplied: Cath De Vaus) While research important, surprising according agricultural biotechnology expert Caroline Hauxwell Queensland University Technology (QUT), wasn't involved study. "feed nasty chemicals birds insects, going good. rocket science," Dr Hauxwell"It shows careful seed coatings their impacts. Migratory birds vulnerable." Imidacloprid linked deaths number native birds near Horsham Victoria 7. Dr Hauxwell warned need careful respond, simply banning neonicotinoid insecticides backfire. Doing been shown force farmers depend non-neonicotinoid pesticides instead. These been found impact creatures bees birds often used higher volume. "making bad situation complicated," Dr Hauxwell said. "neonics, fungicides," she adding effect seen birds exposed neonicotinoid pesticides been found chlorpyrifos, organophosphate pesticide. She farmers' best interests birds eating seeds, solutions need more holistic rather knee-jerk. Integrated management help cut pesticides Pinkish looking seeds scattered dark soil. Coating seeds pesticides common practice Australia around world. (Supplied: Margaret Eng) In Australia, seed coating often used default, regardless specific pest threat present, according Dr Hauxwell. Instead, she said, significantly reduce amount neonicotinoids used adopting integrated pest management approach. Integrated pest management involves using range tactics, including tweaking planting times avoid pests, creating physical pest barriers, breeding limiting chemical intervention. ABC Science YouTube more science plus health, environment, tech more? Subscribe channel golden rule integrated pest management respond pest threat identified." Dr Hauxwell genetic engineering pest-resistant strains, transgenics, reduce need pesticides. "Most transgenics been shown benign non-target species," she said. Earlier year US banned neonicotinoid-based products, EU banned three active neonicotinoid substances including imidacloprid. been signs similar ban being implemented here, despite calls bee keepers follow EU footsteps.
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M. L. Eng et al. Imidacloprid and chlorpyrifos insecticides impair migratory ability in a seed-eating songbird Scientific Reports   Vol 7, Article number 15176. Published November 11 2017 
doi  - 10.1038/scirep/s41598-017-15446-x