Observations on populations of a small insectivorous bird, Malurus leucopterus leuconotus Dumont, after an application of two ultra-low-volume (ULV) insecticides, fenitrothion and fipronil, in arid Australia

Publication Name

Australian Journal of Zoology


The use of chemical pesticides to manage locust populations in natural ecosystems is likely to impact non-target arthropods and their predators. However, the relative effects of different locust control applications on Australian birds are unknown. Aerial applications of fipronil and fenitrothion are examples of two pesticides used in locust control in semiarid Australia. To test the relative impacts of pesticides on non-target fauna, pesticides were applied to replicate sites using aerial ultra-low-volume application methods. The body condition and biomarkers of pesticide exposure in resident white-winged fairy wrens (Malurus leucopterus leuconotus) at treatment and control sites were measured for two weeks before and after treatments. No measures suggested negative impacts of pesticide applications. However, birds monitored at treatment sites gained mass, possibly due to indirect impacts of pesticides on bird feeding patterns or the availability or behaviour of insect prey. Bird mass measures remained high at fipronil sites, whereas the mass of birds at fenitrothion sites returned to baseline levels within one week. As this study was conducted during dry conditions, when locust plagues are less likely, future insecticide research should also consider the availability of insect prey, its effect on insectivore feeding behaviour and the interaction of rainfall events.

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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