36 different pesticides found in dead blue and great tits

Velt and Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen (Bird Protection Flanders), two Belgian ngo’s,  are taken aback by the results of an extensive joint social citizen project into the cause of death of blue and great tits in the country. A great number of pesticides were found in the dead tits. “In total we detected 36 different pesticides in 95 tit nests”, says Geert Gommers, pesticide expert at Velt. “This is very alarming. Especially because the tits were 2 weeks old at most and had never been outside the nest.” 


Massive presence of DDT

“Not only did we find fungicides (used against fungi), we also detected herbicides (against weeds), insecticides (against insects) and biocides. It is highly remarkable that in 89 of the 95 researched nests we discovered DDT.” The use of the insecticide DDT has been banned officially in Belgium since 1974. “The fact that DDT is still present in our environment after all this time is cause of great concern.’ 

Few nests found without pesticides 

“These results do not make us very happy, to say the least”, Geert Gommers continues. “Especially because in almost every nest there were one or more pesticides present”. In only 4 out of 95 researched nests Velt and Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen found no pesticides. “In just one nest we found a mix of 2 insecticides and 6 fungicides.” 

SOS Mezen (SOS Tits)

Velt and Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen set up a joint research to examine the presence of pesticide residues in death tit chicks. “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 (cf. Pesticides Properties DataBase – PPDB) for birds,” says Inge Buntinx, biologist at Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen.

Why this research?

In 2018 a significant higher number of concerned citizens contacted Velt and Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen about dead tits found in the garden. A lot of chicks of blue and great tits lay dead in their nests. 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. Was there a link between both? Velt and Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen decided to launch a social citizen project in the spring of 2019 aimed at researching the presence of pesticides in dead tit chicks. 

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