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The Hairy Woodpecker

Birding Business - September 2013 - Industry News

Insecticides and Bird Seed
American Bird Conservancy (ABC) recently released a report on the effects of insecticides on birds through the seeds they eat. According to studies reviewed by ABC, for some crops such as corn, close to 100 percent of seed on the market destined for agricultural and horticultural planting is treated with USDA approved neonicotinoid-based insecticides. According to the same studies, however, these legal seed protectant compounds can be fatal to birds, were the treated seed permitted to enter the bird food market. As a safeguard the Conservancy has written to two major bird food packers, Scotts and Kaytee, seeking assurance that their supply chains remain free of the chemical.  “Our recently completed scientific assessment concluded that these insecticides routinely are incorporated into seeds and are lethal to birds”, said the letter from ABC. “We want to ensure that these [agriculturally vital] insecticidal treatments are never found on the bird seed that your companies sell to consumers for feeding pets and wild birds.”

Cynthia Palmer, Pesticides Program Manager for ABC, said that, in response to past wild bird seed contamination incidents, ABC has implemented random testing of bird seed sold by major retailers. To date, ABC’s independent bird seed testing efforts have focused on older products such as the organophosphorous and carbamate pesticides. The ABC letter asserts that “Neonicotinoids are also now a candidate for future testing. The environmental persistence of the compound, its propensity for runoff and for groundwater infiltration, and its cumulative and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates raise significant environmental concerns.”

ABC commissioned toxicologist Dr. Pierre Mineau to conduct a review of applicable literature. His 100-page report, “The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds,” reviews 200 studies on neonicotinoids including industry research obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act. The report evaluates the toxicological risk to birds and aquatic systems and includes extensive comparisons with the older pesticides that the neonicotinoids have replaced. The assessment concludes that the neonicotinoids are lethal to birds and to the aquatic systems on which they depend. 

First introduced to mainstream agriculture in the 1990s in response to widespread pest resistance and health concerns linked to older pesticides, the neonicotinoid insecticides quickly became top sellers in pesticide formulations. Now the most widely-used insecticides in the world, it is difficult to find pest control commodities that do not contain one or several of the neonicotinoid insecticides. California alone has registered nearly 300 such products.

The report also identifies “procedural deficiencies in how the US Environmental Protection Agency assesses aquatic impacts. EPA risk assessments have greatly underestimated this risk, using scientifically unsound, outdated methodology that has more to do with a game of chance than with a rigorous scientific process,” said ABC. EPA’s own scientists have repeatedly documented serious concerns about the persistence, mobility and toxicity of the products, and yet it continues to grant registrations allowing the chemicals to be used for an ever-widening range of crops.

From Farm Field to Feeder
When seed is harvested it is sold to a broker who usually has it treated to control meal moth infestation, and often the packer will treat it as well when it goes through the blending and bagging process. At that stage, if the seed is to be packed in air-tight plastic bags, the treatment is often CO2 – injected when the bag is sealed – which is sufficient to control meal moths and harmless to the end user. But each packer has its own systems so it is difficult for the consumer to determine what type of treatment the seed has been subjected to along the way. ABC’s goal is for the wild bird feeding industry to establish protocols for the treatment of seed intended for the wild bird food market so everyone can be assured that the seed they use in their feeders will not harm the birds.

Dr. Robert Millaway, a specialist in plant biology and physiology, says seed is treated before planting to protect the emerging crop plant from insect predation. But some of the protectants that may be used at the time of planting are not systemic and therefore do not pass through the growth/harvest phase. Such seed will not carry neonicotinoid pesticide residue when received by the broker.

The Wild Bird Feeding Industry trade association is monitoring the situation but has reserved comment until more facts are known. They are conducting more research and the information gained from it may help to lift the lid on these questions and maintain confidence in the bird food industry. In a situation like this, silence is not golden.

There is much more to be learned about this issue; please see these two ABC web sites, http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/130501.html and http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/130319.html for more detailed information.

Birding Industry is Going to Mexico

As in years past, retailers and vendors will be heading to Mexico, MO, October 1st through 3rd for Gold Crest Distributing’s annual warehouse sale. Last year’s Expo included over 100 backyard nature vendors and 600 retailers from 46 states and 4 provinces of Canada.
Education is key to this event and this year features Stan Tekiela, author of scores of state specific field guides on birds, wildflowers, butterflies, mammals and more for a session on Wednesday, October 2nd from 11 am to 12 pm. Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, a contributing editor to “Museums and More” who also has a weekly column with Crain’s Business is on the speaker list as well.

Further info and registration for retailers and vendors can be found at www.WildBirdExpo.com. Free hotel rooms, meals and transportation from the St. Louis airport and around the Expo sites are provided for qualified retailers, making this a
very affordable show to attend.

Government Underestimating Number of Birds Killed by Wind Farms

Bird deaths caused by wind turbines were underreported in a 2009 government report, according to a new study. The study determined that “888,000 bat and 573,000 bird fatalities/year (including 83,000 raptor fatalities)” occurred, 30% more than previously thought. “As wind energy continues to expand, there is urgent need to improve fatality monitoring methods, especially in the implementation of detection trials, which should be more realistically incorporated into routine monitoring,” according to K. Shawn Smallwood, whose study was published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.


Christine Forcier Joins Songbird Essentials
Christine (Chris) Forcier, formerly with Opus, Inc., has been named Specialty Accounts Manager for Songbird Essentials.  In making the announcement President Mel Toellner said, “We are excited to have Chris join our team. Her wealth of industry knowledge and customer relationships developed over her 21 years with Opus will be invaluable to us as we continue to grow the Songbird Essentials brand. What I particularly like is that Chris worked her way up at Opus from receptionist to Sales Manager of Special Accounts.  She understands our customers.”

In discussing her new employment Chris commented, “It has been wonderful reconnecting with former customers!  The first thing they say is, ‘Where have you been?’  My heart has always been in the birding industry.  I missed my former customers tremendously and I’m excited to be able to build new relationships.”

Sunflower Crops Increasing Worldwide

Increased farming of sunflowers in Russia and Ukraine has boosted worldwide production of sunflower oil to 14.7 million gallons in 2014 from 13.6 million the previous year. This is down from 15.1 million in 2011, however. While demand for the oil is increasing, competition from other vegetable oils may result in a sunflower surplus. At the same time, wild bird stores have been feeling the pinch of the increased demand for sunflower seeds in recent years, as the oil has become popular in a number of industries, such as the cooking of snack chips.

Minnesota, Oakland Mandate Bird-Friendly buildings

The state of Minnesota and the city of Oakland, CA, have adopted new guidelines requiring buildings to conform to “bird-friendly” construction and use. The rules are aimed at reducing the number of birds killed in collisions with structures. In Oakland, buildings with glass exteriors, built next to a large recreation area or body of water, or with a significant amount of vegetation on the exterior will have the design reviewed by the city to reduce strikes. In Minnesota, the initial design must take reducing strikes into consideration, the owners must monitor bird strikes in the first year, and use concepts from the Lights Out campaign. Similar practices have been adopted in San Francisco and parts of Chicago.

Hawaii, Communities Nationwide, Restrict Birdfeeding

Across the nation, communities have been adopting guidelines that restrict the feeding of birds. While most are coming from small, specific communities, Hawaii recently adopted a law affecting the entire state.
In Bergen, New Jersey, Alfred and Annette Rockefeller are facing a fine for a peanut feeder that they claim is for birds, but which complaints say have been attracting other wildlife. It’s claimed that the wreath-style feeder is attracting animals which are damaging neighbors’ gardens. The Rockefellers had previously put seed on the ground, but were likewise informed that this was attracting animals. The environmental health specialist for the borough, Leo Egan, has stated that after issuing two verbal warnings to the couple, they were given a written citation, the first issuance he’s aware of.

The City Council of Cranston, Rhode Island passed an ordinance restricting homeowners to one bird feeder per property, with a penalty of $50 for each infraction. The ordinance is aimed at reducing the rat infestation affecting several wards in the community. The council had earlier passed a resolution against multiple bird feeders, but this action gives it the force of law. The Council has also passed resolutions against feeding pets or storing food outside.

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie has signed a law making the feeding of “feral birds” a public health nuisance in the state. The feeding, which is targeted at curbing pigeons, makes “excessive” feeding which leads to health problems, property damage, or odors, illegal. The use of the word “feral” is key, as state is seeking to control populations of introduced species, like the rock dove, while protecting native species.



The Hunt for Illegal Egg Collectors
Writer Julian Rubenstein published an article in a recent issue of The New Yorker which details an investigation known as “Operation Easter”.  It’s a story about a secretive network of Britons obsessed with accumulating and cataloging the eggs of rare birds, and the investigators who are trying to catch them. “In Victorian times, egg collecting in England was the quaint province of natural historians” Rubinstein writes, “but as laws protecting endangered birds were passed, the activity became a criminal act.”

Mark Thomas and Guy Shorrock are senior investigators for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which now boasts over a million members. Egg-collecting cases make up about twenty-five per cent of the team’s work. Collectors are “not normal criminals,” Shorrock says. Thomas estimates that there are about fifty active collectors left, and RSPB knows who they are. Daniel Lingham, whose home contained thirty-six hundred stolen eggs, broke into tears when Thomas and the police arrived in 2004. “Thank God you’ve come,” he said to them. “I can’t stop.” Jim Whitaker, a longtime member of an egg-collecting group tells Rubinstein of his life as an oologist, “It’s hard on the women... They don’t have the same obsession the husbands have.” The R.S.P.B. reports that for every successful egg-collecting case they get thirty thousand new members.

Please see this link: http://nyr.kr/189lKNh for the full story.

Commemorating the Centennial of Passenger Pigeon Extinction
2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, when “Martha,” died in captivity at the Cinncinnati Zoological Gardens. To call attention to this centennial milestone, as well as the effect humans are having on other endangered animals, several people are contributing to projects such as the website What Is Missing (http://whatismissing.net/) where you can view the timeline to extinction of various animals throughout human history. Another proje
ct is the documentary “From Billions To None: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction” which recently raised over $32,000 in completion funds.