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Pesticides: Repelling Insects, Threatening Birds

Birds play an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. They also play a role in food chains by hunting insects and pests for food. Insects along migratory routes of birds also play an important role as food sources for insectivorous birds. Unfortunately, the use of pesticides on crops threatens the existence of insects and birds that feed on them.

Burung Indonesia's Biodiversity & Conservation Senior Officer, Jihad said that insects are the main food source for migratory insectivorous bird species such as flycatcher, thrush, shrike, warbler, and other species. Insects are found along migration routes including fields, forests, wetlands and other locations. This dispersed presence means that they are used as food for migrating birds to replenish their energy reserves before continuing their journey.

Today, the use of pesticides for agriculture and plantations is common practice. The problem is when pesticides are used excessively, affecting insect survival. Jihad said that there are several studies showing that the use of pesticides that are excessive and not environmentally friendly can reduce and even eliminate the population of various types of insects.

Coppersmith Barbet eating insects (Photo: Burung Indonesia/Jihad)

There was one publication in 1962 titled "Silent Spring". Rachel Carson, the author, accurately described how the pesticide DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) had penetrated the food chain and accumulated in the adipose tissue of animals, including humans, causing cancer and genetic damage.

Pesticides and herbicides designed to protect crops may also harm insects that are food sources for birds. Migratory birds can be directly affected by pesticides from accumulated residues in the bodies of their prey, such as insects.

Burung Indonesia's Biodiversity and Conservation Officer, Achmad Ridha Junaid also added that pesticides are also consumed by water birds. This can happen because the fish and shellfish that they eat are contaminated with pesticides that dissolve into water.

Small Minivet, an insectivorous bird that can be found in urban areas on Java Island (Photo: Burung Indonesia/Kukuh Akhfad)

According to Ridha, pesticides that enter the body of birds in large quantities cause digestive disorders and decreased reproductive abilities. As a result, reproductive ability decreases, and the breeding rate decreases.

For migratory birds, pesticides that settle in the body can have a more significant impact, as too much pesticide intake can cause failure to migrate home. Failure to migrate back to the place of origin, obviously makes the opportunity for reproduction very small. This could result in the population of certain migratory bird species declining.

Ridha also explained that Indonesia is one of the highest pesticide-using countries. Excessive use of pesticides can cause soil quality degradation, damage the balance of aquatic ecosystems, and can also affect human health in the long run through the food chain.