In the News: Pesticide That Makes Birds Lose Their Way on Migration


Indigo Bunting
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

Its important to be gardening with organic fertilizers and pesticides, and to keep chemicals out of your bird-friendly backyard. If you find this difficult to do, be aware that some pesticides contain neonicotinoids – a type of neuro active synthetic insecticide chemically similar to nicotine – which affects much more than insects. These first came into public view when there was a die off of 50,000 bees which had been sprayed with a pesticide containing this chemical. Research with birds shows that pesticides containing neonicotinoids can also affect birds in a number of ways. In laboratory tests, birds which have eaten seeds from plants treated with this chemical, quickly became disoriented, weak and ill. But in smaller doses, birds on migration can become disoriented and even lose their way.

This article in The Guardian gives more information on this kind of pesticide. But be aware that although some stores like Home Depot are phasing them out, they are still commonly sold in many stores and available widely. In fact, Imidacloprid is the most widely used insecticide in the world. To avoid inadvertently using one of these chemicals which will not only kill insects, but also harm the birds in your yard, check the label for ingredients before you buy any pesticide. The label probably won’t read neonictinoid, but may include acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid or thiamethoxam. To make it easier to choose products without these toxins, here is a list of pesticides in Home Depot showing which contain neonicotinoids and those which do not.