Neonics linked to songbird deaths

Scientists have conducted dozens of studies on neonicotinoid seed treatments and the potential impact on bee health.

Now, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan have found that canola seed coated with imidacloprid, a type of neonicotinoid, can be toxic to songbirds.

“Imidacloprid dosed birds exhibited significant declines in fat stores and body mass and failed to orient correctly,” the scientists wrote in a study published Nov. 9 in the journal Scientific Reports.

“These results suggest that wild songbirds consuming the equivalent of just four imidacloprid-treated canola seeds… per day over three days could suffer impaired condition, migration delays and improper migratory direction, which could lead to increased risk of mortality or lost breeding opportunity.”

Neonicotinoids, also known as neonics, are applied as a seed treatment to almost all of the canola and corn grown in North America and a portion of the soybean crop. The insecticides have been controversial, for years, because research suggests a link between neonics and bee colony losses.

Christy Morrissey, a U of Sask environmental toxicologist, wanted to know if neonics had an impact on songbirds.

Morrissey and her team fed imidacloprid-treated seed to white-crowned sparrows, a type of songbird, and compared the sparrows to a control group.

They also fed the sparrows granules of chlorpyrifos, an organophosate insecticide sold as Lorsban.

In a statement the scientists said the doses were realistic exposure for songbirds, which stop and feed on farmland during spring migration.

“What surprised us was how sensitive and rapid the effects were, particularly to imidacloprid,” Morrissey said in a statement. “The birds showed a significant loss of body mass and signs of acute poisoning (lethargy and loss of appetite). The migration trials also showed that birds completely failed to orient or changed their northward orientation.”

The chlorpyrifos insecticide didn’t reduce the sparrow’s body mass but it did impair sense of direction.

“These chemicals are having a strong impact on songbirds,” said Margaret Eng, a post-doctoral researcher in Morrissey’s lab. “We are seeing significant weight loss and the birds’ migratory orientation being significantly altered.”

A spokesperson for Bayer, which manufactures imidacloprid, said the study is misleading because it doesn’t represent real world conditions for white-crowned sparrows in Western Canada.

“The repellent properties of the seed treatment would normally deter birds from ingesting whole canola seeds treated with imidacloprid … previous studies of caged birds indicated a lack of interest in imidacloprid treated seed if other food sources were available,” said Paul Thiel, vice-president of product development and regulatory science for the crop science division of Bayer in Canada.

“Scientific evidence clearly shows that imidacloprid has minimal environmental impact when used according to the label, including ingestion by seed-eating songbirds.”

Thiel added that imidacloprid is rarely used as a seed treatment for canola, which severely reduces potential exposure.

Regardless, the U of Saskatchewan findings could affect the future of imidacloprid.

In November 2016 Health Canada proposed to ban imidacloprid because the insecticide was accumulating in water near agricultural land.

That was reportedly putting aquatic insects at risk and threatening animals that rely on those insects for food.

The proposal was controversial in Canada’s agriculture sector. The Bayer product was once the most popular insecticide in the world. It is used as a seed treatment on field crops, but is very important to fruit, vegetables and potato producers in Canada.

On the Prairies, it’s used on wheat crops to control wireworm.

The public and ag industry reps submitted comments on Health Canada’s proposed ban. Over the last year, government scientists have been reviewing the comments and gathering more data on imidacloprid and its impact on aquatic insects.

Health Canada may announce its plans for imidacloprid in December, but the department hasn’t committed to a timeline for a final decision.


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  • Nick

    How many more studies do we need before these toxins are banned? Health Canada is waiting for permission from Bayer and Syngenta before it acts!

    • ed

      Right on. Commerce first, any degree of common sense a distant 10th. Common sense is now considered a “Super Power” don’t you know???

  • Dr

    The birds didn’t get to choose if they ingest the bright blue coating from the transgenic seed that floats invisibly on the wind and that is blown around by the Big Ag minions air drill.

    Sounds like something out of a George Orwell novel. The simpler beasts provide and share many things with us not least is the beauty of seeing and hearing them. We isolate ourselves from nature so we can feel less bad about spreading our toxic by products and so that we can continue this absurd race to see who sits on the biggest pile of cash when they die. Mans propensity to destroy and then justify that destruction is truly the amazing feat of the anthropogenic time….a true disappearing act….however we may disappear ourselves. A brilliant and shining lack of foresight!

    Way to go Christy Morrissey for risking your career to tell the truth. You could be working for a chemical company suppressing exactly your type of research however you choose to tell the truth. Thank you very much.

  • richard

    Another epic example of blind faith in technology meeting the brick wall of natural law….. As per usual the whacktivists saw it coming ten years ago…..Perhaps Health Canada should just hire these people to advise them? We could then learn to avoid all the silly necessary illusions of progress.

  • Denise

    That may explain what happened to the swallows I found above the entrance into our barn. Four dead young perfectly-feathered barn swallows in their nest. On the ground below the nest, were 3 dead adult barn swallows ,all in perfect condition except they were all thin!! I could not figure out what had happened to them ,other than they had a disease or had been poisoned to death.

    • FarmersSon63

      What did your toxicology study conclude?

      • Denise

        I know you are being sarcastic but you are right I should have taken them to the local vet and found out, for sure, if they had been poisoned.

        • richard

          you should have…..but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck……it probably has not yet ingested a systemic, persistant neurotoxin…..aka better living through denial

          • FarmersSon63

            Yeah, just make a conclusion based on a hunch.
            What do we need science for.

          • Denise

            Who… is jumping to a conclusion here? I guess this is too sensitvie topic to spectulate on what happened to these birds.

          • FarmersSon63

            Purely guessing with absolutely zero proof.

          • Denise

            So you can proclaim your blind faith in technology but we can’t express any theories on what killed these songbirds?

          • FarmersSon63

            Until you can prove anything….you are only stating an opinion.

          • Harold

            You are guessing – that it isn’t so – with zero proof. … You hang your hat upon science but that science has not given you an answer yet, and neither an answer to Denise. I know that you do not have your answer and that Denise does not have her answer yet, and it is something that Denise has not hidden from anyone. Anyone with even an ounce of intelligence knows that for every “might be” there is an equal outcome that it “might not be”. Denise has said it might be, and you have said it might not be. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that for every “might be” there is a “wait and see”. Did you think that you were providing anyone with information that we don’t already possess? Go and get those birds and have them tested yourself and earn your say. Until then, what you are truly complaining about is only your own empty opinion and comment and placing the blame onto Denise. What does Denise owe you? Is Denise your employee? If you knew exactly what killed those birds and Denise did not, you would be providing her with your help rather than your empty opinions and condemnation. If Denise’s speculation turns out to be correct, who then was jumping to conclusions? And, for your information. opine means – to think, and what you normally think about are facts, and from those facts you form a speculation, and that is what an opinion is. Opinion means – of what you think about. When you share opinions, it is the act sharing what each are thinking about and that is facts and their speculations. A fact sheet is a fact sheet. 2+2=4 is not an opinion – it is a fact. The sharing of what you think about is called a conversation or a discussion. Fact- Denise has birds that have died unusually with no known cause. Denise pined upon this – and after thinking – opine – she offered an opinion. …

          • richard

            … contradict blind faith in technology, aka religious fanaticism…..

      • Kissing optional

        It concluded that chemical producers and their agribiz cohorts should be force fed a steady diet of the poisons they promote and use.

        • FarmersSon63

          That sure makes alot of sense.

      • richard

        …..that when it comes to agribiz mythology, ignorance is bliss and stupidity is contagious….

      • Denise

        Good news FarmerSon63.
        I didn’t throw the dead swallows into the garbage. I placed them on the ground beside the barn. Interestingly,no animal wanted to eat them! I will take them and have a toxicology study done to determine why they died huddled in their nest ,as if they were sleeping.

        • FarmersSon63

          Why would you rely on actual science for the first time in your life?

          • Harold

            Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There is no pleasing you is there.

          • Happy Farmer

            Careful now Harold. Your comment (IMHO) applies to just about every opinion I’ve seen in these forums. (Yep, even mine)

          • Harold

            You are correct and that was my point. It is a discussion forum not a fact sheet. If you were looking for a fact sheet you are looking in the wrong place. Reading another’s sayings about something and actually doing the work yourself are two very different things. In this forum people express what they have read, or what they have personally taken upon themselves to study, or the work that they do, or the interpretations of the experiences that they have had, or encountered, and etc. A discussion is – others doing the same in kind and perhaps asking a few questions for clarity. Asking a question isn’t for the purpose of acceptance, it is for the purpose of gaining clarity. A clear object signals your acceptance or rejection. You would think that everyone had the intelligence to understand what the writer is holding in their hand, whether it be a pitch fork, or a book, or a newspaper, or a dog,. and respond accordingly and in kind, but that seems not to be the case. As an illustration, a writer says there is a “book” and the respondent says that there is no “book” and that is because this forum is not a library. This forum introduces you to the library and if you want to – you go to the library and read that “book”. To continue to speak without gaining the knowledge contained in that “book” – is to speak thereafter in ignorance. To speak of your farm without being on that farm is to speak in ignorance. This forum does not gain you the experience of that farm; the sweat does. To speak of human health without the knowledge of human health is to speak in ignorance. This forum is not a lab but invites you to go to one and do some work. In short, your belief, or disbelief in Santa clause is highly dependant upon knowing exactly what Santa clause is. Any child can explain this. In debate classes when I was young – my teacher gave me no choice but to support the side that I was most opposed. If I was “FOR” something – against my will, she placed me on the team that was “AGAINST” and my high marks were awarded based upon on my effort to support “AGAINST”. What she taught me though my anger and emotional torcher was that if I didn’t understand my initial opponent fully – then I was not fit to debate my initial position in the first place. What I discovered after the fact is that the experience made my initial stance even stronger – and not weaker. In some cases the very opposite occurred and I learned that my initial stance was mistaken. If you can understand what I mean, I’ll say this; I torcher and anger myself routinely. Many of the commenters are not fit for a debate because they will not anger or emotionally torture themselves in favor of the ease of their held positions, but then again, this is not a debate forum – it is a discussion, but some in their own illusion are pretending it is a debate and in the illusion are very demanding. The title of the Article does not say : resolve that – Neonics are – or are not linked to songbird deaths; that debate is taking place elsewhere – and from this forum – whos opinions would they gather to support their positions? Pretty dry eh? If you can see with your own eyes what I am saying so be it; if you cannot see it – dismiss it, and so be it. I’m not here to force-feed anyone. Regarding your warning, what am I to be careful of; my discussing? I do know the place that I am standing in and perhaps my comment has made it just a little more obvious.

          • Happy Farmer

            Harold, you have once again come up with a (Novel) answer.
            Maybe you would not be quite so daily tortured if you had no reply in some cases.

          • Harold

            Clearly you didn’t understand what I meant, and I did take that risk. The torture that I was speaking about is my dismissing of what I know to be true to look for evidence of the contrary. This has nothing to do with my replies and your comment has not hidden your true intent from me.

        • Harold

          I believe that like humans, animals are drawn to food by their noses and if it doesn’t smell good – they don’t eat it. Perhaps the birds had been dead too long before they were put on the “plate”. I don’t believe that an animal can smell poison, because if they could, the birds wouldn’t have died in the first place. Animals can be baited to eat poisonous foods and if they could smell poison, or understand it, the practice would never work. If the birds are dying from poison, that is our genius minds – and not theirs. Your effort will lead you to that “genius mind” or it won’t – but there is no value in not knowing is there? Knowing gives you concern, and a frown upon your face, and labor, and ignorance gives you bliss, and a smile, and a arm chair. It seems that many Canadians are sitting in that arm chair and watching the news instead of creating the news and they seem to think that from that chair – they are becoming the experts.
          Off the topic and into the left field, what to the surveys ask; “do you watch TV”? The polling error is what percentile of what?

    • Clark Brenzil, PAg.

      Not being familiar with the weather in your area, might I propose another scenario? Swallows are insect feeders, mostly mosquitos. Starvation may be an option if the weather dried up all of the puddles where mosquitos breed. Possible?

      • richard

        yes possible……I have a better idea…..Putting a systemic, persistent, neurotoxin on every single seed with complete disregard for pest thresholds is a recipe for ecological disaster….. and one of the key reasons why intelligent consumers believe nothing you guys pretend to say about progress or sustainability…..

  • Semiahmoo

    Congratulations to Christy Morrissey at the U of S for having the courage to speak the truth. Far too often these kind of results are suppressed. Thank you for revealing this research that shows why our songbirds are disappearing. Wonder what is next on the destruction list for the ag chem industry?…ross

    • Kissing optional

      She can kiss future research grants goodbye
      That is the mo of the chemical industry… bad press= no advertising
      Negative research findings = cuts to University grants.
      Remember when the Percy Schmeiser story broke, Monsanto was in full libel chill mode.

  • Kissing optional

    Imagine if animals had the same ‘human’ rights as do corporations.
    The law suits on behalf of the animals and bees and butterflies …

    • hyperzombie

      Well corporations do not have any human rights, so animals have the same rights. And why would you want animals to have human rights? With these rights come responsibilities, Pay taxes, responsibility for crimes, Jail time. Seems like a bad deal for the animals.

      • Harold

        In law, a corporation is a person and a person is a corporation. Often times the public gets this confused. Human rights are not paid for by taxes. Human Rights are guaranteed by the constitution and regardless of taxation; even criminals in jail must be treated humanely and they have human rights and only suffer the loss of their freedom. There isn’t anywhere that allows anyone any freedom to willing harm or injure another human being; that freedom is taken away and placed in jail cells. The only responsibility that we have is to our own actions and that those actions do not bring harm upon another human being. We don’t have a responsibly for crime, the harm that we do to others is labeled crime. Those who have “responsibility for crime” are the ones who plant the doers of harm in the jail cell. The CRA is a Corporation and you cannot harm that corporation by not paying them your taxes; the corporation is not a natural living human being but some human being their will plant your ass in a jail cell if you do not pay. Where did he gain this human right to do so? Did you sign a contract with him and renege?
        If we have dominion over the animals – was it not for the intentions of the animals being better off? If we are their superior mind, why do they live worse off? I am not talking about animal rights; I am talking about the animal stewardship of the intelligent. The intelligence of steward is the animals rights. Any house dog will tell you that..

        • hyperzombie

          In law, a corporation is a person and a person is a corporation.

          Nope, a corporation is just a legal entity, created for tax purposes. Like a Union, it can be many people or just one.

          Human rights are not paid for by taxes.

          This is so true. Human rights are free.

          even criminals in jail must be treated humanely and they have human rights

          Yes, but they only have some rights.

          The only responsibility that we have is to our own actions and that those actions do not bring harm upon another human being.

          Tell that to the tax man when he knocks on the door. What if you steal from a dementia patient, patient has no need for the money, no harm right?

          We don’t have a responsibly for crime, the harm that we do to others is labeled crime.

          Nope, Drunk driving, shooting at a crowd and not hitting anyone, a failed attempted murder plot. All crimes, but no one was hurt.

          • Harold

            Wishing for things to be so – doesn’t make them so; argue with Black’s Law Dictionary.
            You agreed with me that prisoners had some Rights. Your agreement with me tells me that you haven’t a clue about how they got them in the first place.
            Moving forward, a corporation is two or more, it is not one only. I am a corporation and my corporation is a piece of paper in my Corporate Lawyers filing cabinet bearing a red seal and imprint. It is not found in the files of the CRA. The places that I work from are called buildings and work spaces and they bear different titles. Those different titles are found in the files of the CRA for their taxing purposes – not mine. Secondly, a corporation does not provide product to itself, (1) it provides a product to one other (2) or more (3, 4, 5, 6…..). A corporation is two or more and it is bound by a contract. Wendy’s for an example, is NOT a corporation – if its business with all of it equipment is for the purpose of providing themselves something to eat; that is commonly called – a lunch room – not a corporation. Your “nope” translates to me that you don’t understand, and that is not my problem to resolve.
            The State has included victimless crime and future-time fiction crime to the list of crimes and they achieved these additions by selling their “fear package” to the fear-based public and then it became Law , but that did not in any way diminish the roots of true victims of crime. Were you expecting me to include pages and pages of details to each comment? What you don’t know is not my problem. The Supreme Law of Canada – the Constitution – grants everyone the security of person, so the one firing a gun aimlessly in a crowd, or the one vowing the threat of causing harm or body injury had already been covered without the need of more Laws. In the absence of the written word – your oral word is your vow to commit an act. For an example, If you say that you are going to kill someone, in Law – it is the same thing as you did carrying it out, (YOUR WORD IS YOUR VOW) and then preservation of life and preservation of property measures stand – and you go to jail. Isn’t it just an ordinary understanding that if your words were intended to be meaningless – then you ought to just shut the hell up. It is called – keeping the peace. The Court orders you to “shut the hell up” more sternly if you by then have not received adequate parental guidance or lack the benefits of a formal education. If someone offers you a threat – isn’t it your first action to grab a weapon of defence and await upon the threats arrival? (preservation of life and property) This practice is many thousands of years old and is the roots of the Law. Further, In every Court case – you are not forgiven for the harm or injury that you have caused. For example: you break a window, you pay for that window. (I am using window to gain simplicity – unless you want pages and pages of details) There are two elements that are tested during a trial that determine the sentencing given to the guilty party. One element is the total damages , and the other element is the guilty party’s intent at the time of the offence. If it is proven that you did not have the intent to cause the harm or injury but it happened – you pay only the harm or injury. If it is proven that you had intent to cause the harm or injury, the punishment is more severe – and that is an additional fine placed on top of the damages, or jail, or both. What you are seeing on TV or reading in the media is nothing more than entertainment fiction.
            Regarding the “dementia patient”; if you had any clue about what you are talking about you would not have asked that question. You explained the crime in your very own statement – and hadn’t even noticed – and then drew the wrong conclusion. Am I to take you seriously? I don’t need your answer.
            As far as taxation, the only thing that you know about it is to pay them or else, and that has become very clear to me so I will leave it at that. What you don’t know is not my problem and what you do know offers you no problems and I am happy to sit as is and therefore you needn’t offer me anything more.

          • richard

            You must have studied law…. but do you realize you are talking to a walking dead entity….?

          • Harold

            No, I do not realize that, but I do realize this and the following; your question lacks clarity. A dead entity does not walk – not even in the movies, but perhaps they walk in peoples illusions and I will leave the latter topic alone. The dead entity is in the filing cabinet, and the live entity placed it there. The dead entity stays in the filing cabinet and the live entity walks away and produces something that will be traded by contracting with someone else, and only a live entity can do that. The trade contract is another dead entity that is placed in a filing cabinet while the live entities responds to the wording of the dead entity. The bill of sale for your car is your proof of property ownership and it is a piece of paper- a dead entity – to which YOU bring life to. When you go to Court, you are asked to provide all of your dead entities that YOU bring life to – by your signature – a sign of the living – nature and sign – Sign and nature – sign-nature. – signature. Did you know what your signature was? This is why your signature should never be used or seen as meaningless. Those who believe that their signatures are meaningless and lifeless are straightened out in Court and not by their friendly neighbors or contractor. When you die, what happens to your car? No-life-to-the-dead-entity (bill of sale) Look at your drivers licence – do you see your name printed all capitols? What do you see in the Grave Yard – All names printed in all capitols? nom de guerre – The assumed name under which a person engages in enterprise or a dead entity. Is your name in all capitols on all of your documents? Any lower case spelling of your name anywhere? Bank statement, hydro? Further, there are two Canada’s. One Canada is a dead entity and the other Canada is a live entity. Do you know the difference? Why does an autograph outlive a signature? Did you think that they are the same? What is plagiarism? Does plagiarism go to court? Autograph vs signature.
            Back to your comment, what “walking dead entity” am I talking to? A question often brings clarity unless the one that you are asking doesn’t know the answer.

      • Kissing optional
        • hyperzombie

          How could you throw a corporation in jail? It is just a legal entity, like a Co-op, municipality, or a strata.

          Never said that animals break the laws of nature, just if you give them human rights, they will also have to take on the responsibilities that us humans take on as well. There are no rights without responsibilities.

          • Kissing optional

            Now you are just making noise
            Do you even know what human rights are?
            What responsible is required?
            Is no jail capable of holding Mr Monsanto for poisoning a whole society just because he has the privilege of selling shares in his products of poison?

          • hyperzombie

            There is no Mr Monsanto, the company was named after his wife and she died about 100 years ago. Today 10s of millions of people own Monsanto. It is a publicly traded company.

        • Harold

          “What animal breaks the ‘laws of nature’ for profit”? The human animal does. I wont go into this too deeply, but if you take away our language and written word to advance knowledge inter-generationally and our ability to use critical thinking and morality when making judgment calls – we are the same as an animal. We are only animals of ability’s that the other animals do not have. Hellen Keller expressed this very well – what it was like to be an animal and what grasping her first word meant. It brought her out of the animal kingdom and placed her in the human animal kingdom. Further, what animal kills as nicely as we do? I’ll redeem myself by asking – what animal is a greater pest and nuisance, greedier and uncaring in this world than we are? in the animal kingdom, it is only the strong who can carry the weight who are the chosen leaders and are the most respected, but in the human animal kingdom, the weak and wealthiest are the chosen leaders and are the most respected. Our ability’s have not served us well. We can make or train a dog to go against its nature, to do tricks, beg, and shake a paw, praise them and reward them with treats for their obedience, and the dog will come back wagging its tail, but then so can the wealthy elite make us humans do the same and to also make us believe that we aren’t their dog. Human animal kingdom. .

          • Kissing optional

            “…redeem myself by asking – what animal is a greater pest and nuisance, greedier and uncaring in this world than we…”
            Ahh, humans. We are all of this and more, yet we are also every thing opposite, or at least, can be.
            Be well

          • Harold

            Animals know what to do with money. The human animal has not learnt it yet and that prevents the “can be”. I am well, thank you.


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