Dead Bird Nests Contain 36 Different Pesticides, Including DDT

We are living in a highly advanced era and have succeeded to ease our life to a great extent, but at the same time, we have caused insuperable damage to our planet and the other living beings.

Humans are directly or indirectly destroying and neglecting nature in so many ways, through industrialization, deforestation, construction, nuclear testing, waste and pollution, the use of harmful chemicals, poisonous gases, and so on.

The effects of the damage we have caused to our natural habitat are already evident, which is the reason why there is a growing need for natural-friendly solutions to protect our environment.

Unfortunately, the terrible outcome of our negligence is initially portrayed in the animal and plant kingdom, as their ecosystem suffers grave consequences.

In 2018, Belgian citizens alerted local ecological organizations about the growing number of dead baby birds they were seeing in their communities, and the findings of the study that followed this were alarming regarding pesticides.

Bird conservation association Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen, which means “Bird Protection Flanders” and ecological gardening association Velt received numerous reports of dead baby birds in Brussels and Flanders.

At the same time, the caterpillars of the boxwood moth caused a lot of damage in gardens, provoking the massive use of pesticides against them.

Consequently, these organizations started a joint campaign called SOS Mezen to investigate if there was a link between the two. In Dutch, the official language of Flanders, mezen means “tit”, another name for “bird”.

Hundreds of Belgians financially supported the campaign. Moreover, the campaign asked people to record the deaths of baby birds through the campaign’s website. Thousands of people from Brussels and Flanders reported over 4,500 deaths of young birds.

They also sent in dead birds and nests that were analyzed in a specialized lab. Scientists found traces of 36 fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and biocides in 89 of the 95 nests that were examined.

One was DDT, an insecticide that has been banned since 1974.

The organochlorine insecticide has been called “the most widespread and pernicious of global pollutants,’, and its effects on birds were both devastating and notorious.

Concerns about its harmful effects on nontarget organisms, including birds, were first raised shortly after the end of World War II. By the 1960s, there was good evidence that living things concentrated DDT and that it was extremely persistent. Its residues were found to cause both, acute and chronic health problems, and even the direct mortality of some birds by poisoning their nervous system.  

Geert Gommers, a pesticide expert at Velt, reported:

 “We found a total of 36 different pesticides in 95 mesh nests. That is worrying. Especially since the tits were two weeks old at the most and had never been outside the nest box. ”

He added:

“That DDT is still present in our environment after all this time is worrying.”

Gommers continued:

“These results do not make us very happy, to say the least. Especially because in almost every nest there were one or more pesticides present. In just one nest we found a mix of 2 insecticides and 6 fungicides.” 

However, they did find some pesticides that pose a “high” risk for birds.

Inge Buntinx, a biologist at Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen, explains:

“It is hard to determine if the fight against the boxwood moth had any impact on the high tit mortality rate, as is often assumed. This impact needs to be examined further. We did find some chemicals that are used against the boxwood moth in the dead tits, just as pesticides that are rated as highly hazardous for birds.”

The results of the study troubled many Belgians, so SOS Mezen advised them to make a bird-friendly garden, rich in fruits, seeds, and insects.

SOS Mezen suggests growing plants that are native to the region, as they offer more benefits to the birds.

Plants that produce berries provide food for birds, while trees and shrubs of different heights cater to a variety of birds, as each prefers a different height for their nest.

Additionally, it is advised to avoid the use of pesticides to repel insects in the garden.