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Decline in birds linked to common insecticide

Known to harm bees, neonicotinoids’ effects may ripple through ecosystems

8:00am, July 11, 2014

DOWNTURN  Insecticides commonly used on farms may cause a drop in populations of bug-eating birds, like the common starling (shown), also known as the European starling.  

Insects may not be the only collateral damage from a controversial group of insecticides.

The class of chemicals, called neonicotinoids, is used in agricultural fields worldwide to reduce crop-eating pests. Since neonicotinoids were introduced in the 1990s, researchers have reported unintended harm to bees and other pollinators (SN Online: 4/5/12). But a new study suggests that the deadly chemicals may also cause declines in bug-eating bird populations, a possible sign of cascading effects in the environment.

“The effects could be more widespread in the ecosystem than we thought,” says ornithologist Ruud Foppen of Sovon, the Dutch Center for Field Ornithology in Nijmegen.  

Foppen and colleagues analyzed Dutch data on water pollution, which can act as a proxy for pesticide usage because neonicotinoids travel to waterways in farm

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