Fall in France’s bird population linked to rise in pesticide use

Intense use of pesticides in countryside farms across France for better crop yield and subsequent deaths of flying insects including pests may be behind the drop in bird populations by one-third over the past decade-and-a-half, researchers say in two studies. One study views the problem from a national perspective while the other focuses on a vast agricultural region in central France. Calling the situation catastrophic, Benoit Fontaine, a conservation biologist at National Museum of Natural History, says the French countryside is gradually turning into a desert. One-third drop in the populations of birds like the common white throat, the ortolan bunting (pictured) and the Eurasian skylark and the 70% drop in the migratory song bird meadow pipit could be linked to the indiscriminate use of pesticides in fields where crops like wheat and corn are grown. When the insects they feed on die or fear to fly into the countryside farms, bird visits become less frequent. Efforts to reduce use of pesticides by half by 2020 have not yielded results. Farmers’ top priority is maximum crop yield and they use pesticides more intensely. Such practices cannot be controlled to bring in more birds to the countryside.