Insecticide linked to dwindling bird numbers

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Researchers in Nijmegen have concluded that the controversial pesticides known as neonicotinoids, don’t just affect bees but also birds.

The scientists wrote in that the pesticide kills so many insects that there is less food for the birds, causing their numbers to dwindle. “There is strong evidence that the debate about bees missed the bigger picture,” said ecologist Dave Goulson. He indicated that the duped birds do not eat bees but insects like mosquitos and flies that generally are given less attention. “This concerns the bulk of insects that serve as food for so many organisms,” said Ruud Foppen of Sovon Bird Research Netherlands. “There is hardly any data on measurements, but in the meantime so much has changed that it is becoming measureable in bird world.” Other experts also signal an “implosion in the insect world.” They characterize it as a sneaky but worrisome process. “Something slipped by us,” said Foppen. “The birds are not falling from the sky; … but what you do see is that bird populations decline anywhere where this poison is being used.” For their research the Nijmegen scientists compared seven years of bird sightings with measuring data about the neonicotinoid imidacloprid in streams and other waters. The bigger the amount of poison in the water, the faster the decline of the number of birds that eat insects. The researchers concluded that of the 15 bird species they focused on, 14 were being affected; among them the Skylark, Dipper, Swallow, Mistle Thrush, Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow.

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