The massive use of neonicotinoid insecticides has been repeatedly incriminated for their impacts to avian populations.
Some studies have reported contamination of granivorous birds by neonicotinoids but very little is known about exposure to neonicotinoids in other bird species.
To fill this lack of knowledge, we trapped house sparrows Passer domesticus, an omnivorous bird whose diet is composed of both grains and insects,
and we collected 617 feathers from individuals living on 47 conventional, integrated-production (IP-Suisse) and organic farms distributed all over the Swiss plateau, the country’s main agricultural area.
We then assessed the concentration of five neonicotinoids in 146 pools of feathers.
We found that all feather samples were contaminated by at least one neonicotinoid at measurable concentration (>LOQ), with thiacloprid accounting for most of the prevalence (99%),
while clothianidin was found at highest concentrations (with averages ranging from 1.68 to 9.2 ppb).
Additionally, house sparrows living on conventional farms showed higher concentrations of neonicotinoids (15.26 ± 3.58 ppb) than individuals living on IP-Suisse (3.38 ± 0.86 ppb), and organic farms (2.59 ± 0.56 pp
Our large-scale survey highlights how ubiquitous neonicotinoid insecticides have become in agricultural habitats, and reveals generalized exposure of house sparrows, and potentially other species inhabiting farmlands, to neonicotinoids.