National Geographic dubbed 2018 the Year of the Bird, and the news about our feathered friends in the wild isn’t good. Bird populations in agricultural regions in France have dropped by 33 percent, the magazine reported recently, and many believe widespread use of herbicides such as glyphosate may be a contributing factor. In the United States, the U.S. Migratory Bird Council estimates that 10 percent of the 672 million birds exposed to pesticides on U.S. agricultural lands—the canaries in the chemical coal mine, so to speak—die.
Unwittingly, bird lovers may be contributing to the problem by feeding backyard birds seeds soaked with glyphosate and other pesticides.
“Ironically, it is often the same sunflower and/or other grains intended to feed backyard birds that may have been sprayed with lethal pesticides to keep pests (often including birds) at bay,” said Greg Harrison, DVM, a renowned avian health expert and founder of Wild Wings Organic Wild Bird Foods. “Just like human health, birds and animals are affected by widespread usage of glyphosate and other toxic, synthetic pesticides. We created Wild Wings to give bird lovers an alternative to feeding the finches glyphosate.”
Harrison founded Wild Wings Organic Wild Bird Foods and its parent company, Harrison’s Bird Foods, which also makes a veterinary line of organic bird foods for pets. His goals are: 1) to promote the highest standard of care for companion and wild birds through education; 2) to make available quality, certified organic bird foods and other products worldwide; and 3) to protect the environment and create a market for organic grain farmers in the U.S. A disruptor in the $6.3 billion wild bird food and feeder category, Wild Wings makes its wild bird seeds and blends with certified organic grains through a close partnership with Grain Place Foods, a pioneering, 350-acre certified organic farm in eastern Nebraska, and other producers.
“Wild Wings seeds are better for birds, and they know it,” Harrison said. “Studies have shown birds choose organic over non-organic and Wild Wings Organic Wild Bird Foods contain many of the same high quality certified organic items used in our veterinary pet bird formulas, which have been keeping pet birds extremely healthy and happy for many years.”
Just say no in your backyard birdfeeder
Sales of organic and natural pet foods are booming in the United States, reaching $8.2 billion (making up 25 percent of the pet food market) in 2016 and expected to reach $14 billion by 2021 as people discover the difference chemical-free, non-GMO food can make for their pets. “Like pet bird owners, wild bird lovers also need to have the option of feeding birds organic seeds,” Harrison said. “And more and more people are understanding what a difference it makes for the birds they love and the environment that sustains them.”
In 2014, Dutch researchers warned of an alarming trend between declines in bird populations in the Netherlands and higher concentration of imidaclopris, a common neonicotinoid pesticide, according to Smithsonian magazine. (Neonicotinoids are powerful insect neurotoxins and one of the world’s most commonly used pesticides.) Organochlorine pesticides such as the miticide dicofol cause eggshell thinning and can be extremely toxic to birds, according to a McGill University report.
“Fish, birds, and wildlife that live in direct contact with environments subject to pesticide exposure are sentinel species that may be predictive of our own fate,” the Pesticide Action Network states in a report. “With pesticides now found routinely in drinking water, on food, and in the air, we are all taking part in an experiment in pesticide exposure on a global scale.”
In your backyard bird feeders, at least, you can just say no to continuing the chemical cycle.