Migratory white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) were exposed to acephate (acetylphosphoramidothioic acid O,S-dimethyl ester), an organophosphorus pesticide, to determine its effects on migratory orientation and behavior. Birds were also exposed to polarizer sheets to determine the mechanism by which acephate may affect migratory orientation. Adult birds exposed to 256 ppm acephate a.i. were not able to establish a preferred migratory orientation and exhibited random activity. All juvenile treatment groups displayed a seasonally correct southward migratory orientation. We hypothesize that acephate may have produced aberrant migratory behavior by affecting the memory of the migratory route and wintering ground. This experiment reveals that an environmentally relevant concentration of a common organophosphorus pesticide can alter migratory orientation, but its effect is markedly different between adult and juvenile sparrows. Results suggest that the survival of free-flying adult passerine migrants may be compromised following organophosphorus pesticide exposure.
Additional publication details
Acephate affects migratory orientation of the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)