Pesticides blamed for bird decline

The increasing use of herbicides and pesticides is destroying the food chain of farmland birds and threatening their survival, conservationists warned yesterday.

The finding came during a study carried out by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and five other countryside groups to look into the reasons for the drastic decline in the populations of some species. The worst hit species is the tree sparrow, whose numbers fell by 89 per cent between 1969 and 1994, followed by the grey partridge (down 82 per cent), the corn bunting (80 per cent) and the skylark (58 per cent).

In 1970, just 5 per cent of land was sprayed with insecticides, compared to 90 per cent in 1990. During the same period, the use of herbicides almost doubled - in 1970, each field was sprayed 1.3 times while 20 years later the figure had risen to 2.5 times.