Tracking the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on migratory birds

Declines in migratory bird populations have been linked to a range of complex environmental factors, including the dramatic increase in application of neurotoxic neonicotinoid insecticides in recent decades. Neonicotinoids are used as seed treatments in a wide variety of Canadian crops, and consumption of treated seeds could result in poor navigation and migration delays in migratory birds. However, the influence of insecticides on cognition and patterns of movement is poorly understood. To assess whether neonicotinoids affect the ability of birds to successfully migrate, we will use Bird Studies Canada’s (BSC) automated tracking network (Motus) to track seed-eating migratory birds experimentally exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of neonicotinoids during spring migration. This work will contribute to BSC’s mandate to conserve Canadian birds through sound science by tracking priority species and conducting research on population threats. This project will also advance the application of Motus to derive location and orientation of migratory movements.

Faculty Supervisor:

Christy Morrissey


Margaret Eng


Bird Studies Canada


Environmental sciences


Environmental industry




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