In­sec­ti­cide found in same B.C. hum­ming­birds that are on the de­cline

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Some species of North Amer­i­can hum­ming­birds are in se­vere de­cline and a Bri­tish Columbia re­search sci­en­tist says one pos­si­ble cause might be the same in­sec­ti­cide af­fect­ing honey bees.

Chris­tine Bishop with En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Canada said re­searchers started look­ing at a va­ri­ety of fac­tors that may be re­spon­si­ble, rang­ing from habi­tat loss to changes when plants bloom.

To try and find some an­swers, re­searchers be­gan col­lect­ing urine and fe­ces from the birds for test­ing.

“No one has ever mea­sured pes­ti­cides in hum­ming­birds be­fore. So we de­cided to try it,’’ she said in an in­ter­view. “It turns out, to our sur­prise ac­tu­ally, that the birds are ob­vi­ously pick­ing up pes­ti­cides in their food, which can be nec­tar and also in­sects.’’

Bishop said the con­cen­tra­tion found in the urine is rel­a­tively high at three parts per bil­lion.

“Now what does it mean? Right now we’re just un­der­stand­ing what the level of ex­po­sure is, and then how is it af­fect­ing the pop­u­la­tion, well that’s part of the pop­u­la­tion dy­nam­ics,’’ she said.

Her re­search is fo­cused in the agri­cul­tural re­gions in the Fraser Val­ley and south­ern B.C. — the core area for the ru­fous hum­ming­bird.

The ru­fous is a feisty, redthroated bird that weighs about as much as a nickel and spends its sum­mers in B.C., Alaska and the Pa­cific North­west states, then mi­grates to the south­ern United States and Mex­ico.

The test­ing doesn’t harm the birds. Re­searchers hang a net over a feeder and then lower it like a drape when the bird comes to feed.

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