[CT Birds] Article: "American Songbirds Are Being Wiped Out by Banned Pesticides "

Frank Mantlik mantlik at sbcglobal.net
Sun Apr 6 07:48:36 EDT 2008

Hi Meredith,
Great article.  Could you cite the source?  I've seen
crop dusters dumping pesticides on crops in
Venezuela...20 years ago.
Frank Mantlik

--- "wingsct at juno.com" <wingsct at juno.com> wrote:

> To add to the discussion of avian species declines:
> American Songbirds Are Being Wiped Out by Banned
> Pesticidesby Leonard
> number of migratory songbirds returning to North
> America has gone into sharp decline due to the
> unregulated use of highly toxic pesticides and other
> chemicals across Latin America.
> Ornithologists blame the demand for out-of-season
> fruit and vegetables and other crops in North
> America and Europe for the destruction of tens of
> millions of passerine birds. By some counts, half of
> the songbirds that warbled across America’s skies
> only 40 years ago have gone, wiped out by pesticides
> or loss of habitat.
> Forty-six years ago, the naturalist Rachel Carson
> wrote Silent Spring, a study of the ravages caused
> to wildlife, especially birds, by DDT. The
> chemical’s use on American farms almost eradicated
> entire species, including the peregrine falcon and
> bald eagle.
> The pesticide was banned and bird numbers recovered,
> but new and highly toxic pesticides banned by the US
> and European Union are being widely used in Latin
> America.
> Because of changed consumer habits in Europe and the
> US, export-led agriculture has transformed the
> wintering grounds of birds into intensive farming
> operations producing grapes, melons and bananas as
> well as rice for export.
> Ornithologists say another silent spring is dawning
> across the US as birds are being poisoned by toxic
> chemicals or killed as pests in their winter refuges
> across South and Central America as well as the
> Caribbean. They say that many species of songbird
> will never recover, and others may even become
> endangered or extinct if controls are not put in
> place or consumer habits changed.
> More problems await those birds which make it home.
> Millions of acres of wilderness the birds use as
> nesting grounds have been ploughed under in the
> drive to grow corn for ethanol, for bio-fuel.
> Some 150 species of songbirds undertake
> extraordinary migrations up to 12,000 miles every
> year as they move from the south to nesting grounds
> in the US and Canada every spring. Ornithologists
> say that almost all these species are at risk of
> poisoning.
> The migratory songbirds in most trouble include the
> wood thrush, the Kentucky warbler, the eastern
> kingbird and the bobolink, celebrated by the 19th
> century American poet Emily Dickinson as “the rowdy
> of the meadows”.
> Bridget Stutchbury, an ornithologist and professor
> at York University in Toronto, said: “With spring we
> take it for granted that the sound of the songbirds
> will fill the air with their cheerful sounds. But
> each year, as we continue to demand out-of-season
> fruits and vegetables, fewer and fewer songbirds
> will return.”
> The bobolink songbird has experienced such a steep
> decline, it has almost fallen off the charts. The
> birds migrate in flocks from Argentina, Bolivia and
> Paraguay to the east coast of the US, feeding on
> grain and rice, prompting farmers to regard them as
> a pest. Bobolink numbers have plummeted almost 50
> per cent in the past four decades, according to the
> North American Breeding Bird Survey.
> Rosalind Renfrew, a biologist who studied bobolinks
> as they were feeding in rice paddies in Bolivia,
> found about half of the birds had been exposed to
> toxic chemicals banned in Europe and the US. Some 40
> to 50 species, which include the barn swallow, the
> wood thrush the dickcissel as well as migratory
> birds of prey, are starting to disappear.
> It is only recently that the decline has been
> definitively linked to the use of toxic pesticides
> in the Caribbean and across Latin America. “Everyone
> who has looked for pesticide poisoning in birds has
> found it,” Professor Stutchbury said. “When we count
> birds during our summers we are finding significant
> population declines in about three dozen species of
> songbirds.”
> She wrote in the comment pages of The New York
> Times: “They are the modern-day canaries in the coal
> mine.” She said: “The imported fruits and vegetables
> found in our shopping carts in winter and early
> spring are grown with types and amounts of
> pesticides that would often be illegal in the United
> States.”
> Growers are using high doses of pesticides, which
> the World Health Organisation calls class I toxins.
> These are also toxic to humans and are either
> restricted or banned in the US and EU. But controls
> in Latin American countries are easily flouted.
> “I believe that if we don’t make drastic changes
> quite literally many birds which are common now are
> going to become rare,” said Professor Stutchbury.
> Testing by individual EU countries and the US Food
> and Drug Administration reveals that fruits and
> vegetables imported from Latin America are three and
> sometimes four times as likely to violate basic
> standards for pesticide residues.
> Meredith Sampson
> Old Greenwich
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