Pesticide criticized in bee deaths could also kill birds

In this May 12, 2017, photo by Margaret Eng, a white-crowned sparrow in southern Ontario stands affixed with a lightweight digitally coded radio transmitter. The birds were part of a study that found they are vulnerable to population loss due to a kind of pesticide. (Margaret Eng/ Saskatchewan Toxicology Centre via AP)

PORTLAND, Maine — Scientists studying a widely used pesticide say even small doses of the chemical can have crippling health effects on migrating birds, and it might be contributing to declines in their overall populations.

The researchers with the University of Saskatchewan will publish their research about the insect-killer imidacloprid in the journal Science on Friday. The insecticide is among a class called neonicotinoids that has been widely studied for its health impacts on bees.

The scientists studied white-crowned sparrows that consumed small doses of the pesticide and found that the birds experienced weight loss and delays in migration. They say those changes can hinder the birds' ability to reproduce and survive, and that might be contributing to songbird population declines.

Farmers use imidacloprid to control pests that can damage crops.

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