“Studies on the risks of neonicotinoids have often focused on bees that have been experiencing population declines. However, it is not just bees that are being affected by these insecticides,” said Christy Morrissey, U of S biology professor.
Research led by Margaret Eng, a post-doctoral fellow in Morrissey’s lab, is the first study to show that imidacloprid (neonicotinoid) and chlorpyrifos (organophosphate)—two of the most widely used insecticides worldwide—are directly toxic to seed-eating songbirds. The paper, published in Scientific Reports, shows these chemicals can directly affect songbird migration.
“These chemicals are having a strong impact on songbirds. We are seeing significant weight loss and the birds’ migratory orientation being significantly altered,” said Eng, who also worked with colleagues from York University. “Effects were seen from eating the equivalent of just three to four imidacloprid treated canola seeds or eight chlorpyrifos granules a day for three days.”
Lab experiments showed that the neonicotinoids changed not only the birds’ migratory orientation, but the birds also lost up to 25 percent of their fat stores and body mass, both of which are detrimental to how a bird successfully migrates.
[Editor’s note: Read the full study]
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