Exposure of passerine birds to brodifacoum during management of Norway rats on farms
The exposure of non-target wildlife to anticoagulant compounds used for rodent control is a well-known phenomenon. Exposure can be primary when non-target species consume bait or secondary via uptake of poisoned animals by mammalian and avian predators. However, nothing is known about the exposure patterns in passerine birds that are commonly present on farms where rodent control is conducted. We used liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry to screen for residues of anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) in liver tissue of passerine birds that were present during rodent control with a product containing brodifacoum (BR). The 222 birds of 13 species were bycatch of rodent snap trapping in 2011–2013 on 11 livestock farms run synchronously with baiting. During baiting, ARs were detected in about 30% of birds; 28% carried BR. In liver tissue of 54 birds that carried BR, concentrations ranged from 4 to 7809 ng/g (mean 490 ± 169 ng/g). Among common bird species with AR residues, BR was most prevalent in robins (Erithacus rubecula) (44%) and dunnocks (Prunella modularis) (41%). Mean BR concentration was highest in great tits (Parus major) (902 ± 405 ng/g). The occurrence and concentrations of BR residues were about 30% higher in birds collected close to bait stations compared to birds collected further away. The results demonstrate that several ground feeding songbird species are exposed to ARs used on farms. If BR was present in liver tissue, concentrations were variable, which may imply a combination of primary and secondary exposure of songbirds. Exposure was mostly restricted to the immediate surroundings of farms where bait was used, which might limit the transfer to the wider environment. Efforts should be made to reduce the access for birds to AR bait to prevent high exposure.
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