“Birds are one of humankind’s most important early-warning systems. Ancient cultures used birds to track changes in their world. Now birds are telling us that something is terribly wrong in the environment. SongibirdSOS is the modern day story of the “canary in the coalmine”. “We have lost almost half of the songbirds that filled the skies forty years ago and human activity is responsible for the decline.” Inspired by the groundbreaking work of renowned ornithologist Dr. Bridget Stutchbury (author of SILENCE OF THE SONGBIRDS) SONGBIRDSOS will unravel the mystery of disappearing songbirds by taking a journey with them.
This study quantitatively measured neonicotinoids in various foods that are common to human consumption. All fruit and vegetable samples (except nectarine and tomato) and 90% of honey samples were detected positive for at least one neonicotinoid; 72% of fruits, 45% of vegetables, and 50% of honey samples contained at least two different neonicotinoids in one sample, with imidacloprid having the highest detection rate among all samples. All pollen samples from New Zealand contained multiple neonicotinoids, and five of seven pollens from Massachusetts detected positive for imidacloprid. These results show the prevalence of low-level neonicotinoid residues in fruits, vegetables, and honey that are readily available in the market for human consumption and in the environment where honeybees forage. In light of new reports of toxicological effects in mammals, the results strengthen the importance of assessing dietary neonicotinoid intakes and the potential human health effects.
New research has identified the world’s most widely used insecticides as the key factor in the recent reduction in numbers of farmland birds. The finding represents a significant escalation of the known dangers of the insecticides and follows an assessment in June that warned that pervasive pollution by these nerve agents was now threatening all food production. The neonicotinoid insecticides are believed to seriously harm bees and other pollinating insects, and a two-year EU suspension on three of the poisons began at the end of 2013. Peer-reviewed research, published in the leading journal Nature this Wednesday, has revealed data from the Netherlands showing that bird populations fell most sharply in those areas where neonicotinoid pollution was highest. Starlings, tree sparrows and swallows were among the most affected. At least 95% of neonicotinoids applied to crops ends up in the wider environment, killing the insects the birds rely on for food, particularly when raising chicks.
Frogs and other amphibians are under pressure. Nearly one-third of the world’s amphibians are threatened or extinct, according to a report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The spread of a fungus called chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) has taken a toll, leading to the catastrophic decline or extinction of at least 200 species. The amphibian specialists at the IUCN put together a list of five frogs that face the greatest risk of extinction.
This is the time of the year when night life has a new meaning. The city's fireflies, with their alluring, blinking magical displays, offer a fascinating contrast to the city's techno-colored street and shop lighting, and many Shanghai people are setting out to spend time watching and enjoying this natural spectacle. The hunt for the fireflies has also been given a public push recently by the publication of recommended viewing spots for the tiny nocturnal creatures by the Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration. The list of six destinations includes the highly recommended Cenbu village, a village beside Shanghai's largest freshwater lake Dianshan Lake in Qingpu district. Other spots listed are the Shanghai Botanical Garden, the Chenshan Botanical Garden and the Shanghai Zoo.
Imidacloprid, one of the most commonly used insecticides, is highly toxic to bees and other beneficial insects. The regulatory challenge to determine safe levels of residual pesticides can benefit from information about the time-dependent toxicity of this chemical. Using published toxicity data for imidacloprid for several insect species, we construct time-to-lethal-effect toxicity plots and fit temporal power-law scaling curves to the data. The level of toxic exposure that results in 50% mortality after time t is found to scale as t1.7 for ants, from t1.6 to t5 for honeybees, and from t1.46 to t2.9 for termites. We present a simple toxicological model that can explain t2 scaling. Extrapolating the toxicity scaling for honeybees to the lifespan of winter bees suggests that imidacloprid in honey at 0.25 μg/kg would be lethal to a large proportion of bees nearing the end of their life.
Since the end of World War II there has been a decline in forest songbird populations over much of the eastern United States. For example, in Rock Creek Park in the middle of Washington, D.C., populations of Red-eyed Vireos (Vireo olivaceus) have dropped by 79 percent and Ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla) by 94 percent. Acadian Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Vireos (Vireo flavifrons), Black-and-white Warblers (Mniotilta varia), and Hooded Warblers (Setophaga citrina) have disappeared entirely. The decline has not been uniform for all species; the Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens) and others that migrate long distances to tropical America have suffered more than residents or those like robins and towhees that can overwinter in the southern United States. Nor has the decline been equal in all types of forest; the loss of species from woodlots and small forest tracts exceeds the loss from large stretches of forest such as those of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Prairie bird populations are falling in many Midwestern states, from ring-necked pheasants to horned larks to sparrows. Scientists now say insecticides are a primary culprit. Minnesota birds are hardest hit with 12 species in decline, followed by Wisconsin with 11, and Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska and New York with nine affected species each. The recent study looked at a range of possible causes of the population declines, including habitat loss which has long been considered a key driver of the problem. Bird conservationists are “still concerned” about range management, urban development and loss of habitat, but are now focusing additional attention on the harmful impacts of pesticides.
Last year, the barn owl (Tyto alba) suffered its worst breeding season in over 30 years, and now the charity fears that numbers in Northern Ireland may have plummeted.The barn owl was once a common sight in our countryside, but now there are thought to be less than 30 breeding pairs left here. Extreme weather, loss of suitable feeding and nesting habitat, combined with the build up of toxins from consuming poisoned prey are the main reasons for the bird’s decline. Through its ‘Be there for Barn owls’ project, supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, Ulster Wildlife wants to give this iconic bird a fighting chance for survival, by working with farmers and landowners to ensure there is enough rough grassland for barn owls to hunt and breed, as well space for it to nest. “We are urging everyone in to give our barns owls a helping hand by contacting us with sightings of this beautiful bird or signs of their presence, such as nesting sites or pellets,” said Catherine Fegan, Ulster Wildlife’s Barn Owl Officer.
When a creature becomes extinct, we are left with whatever essence of its existence can be conveyed through science, art and the written word. In the case of the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), a prolific and gregarious migratory bird of North America’s eastern and central forests, we’ve been trying to preserve it in memory for a century now. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction. The species’ four-decade decline from billions upon billions to none concluded when a captive bird named Martha died in her cage at the Cincinnati Zoo on Sept. 1, 1914. Martha’s remains were packed in a 300-pound block of ice and shipped to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where she was stuffed and mounted. Last week, the Smithsonian opened an exhibit on the passenger pigeon and other extinct North American birds and put Martha on display for the first time since 1999.