Large Birds

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Birds in wildland areas include large carnivorous birds like hawks or ospreys, herbivorous species like geese and ducks, small insectivorous birds, and small fruit and seed-eating birds. All of these species can be exposed to herbicides through their food and drinking water. The highest risks are typically for birds eating sprayed vegetation, since that is often the target of the application, and the likelihood of being exposed is higher than for those species eating contaminated prey. In general, the herbicides used to control invasive plants do not pose significant acute toxicity risks to birds when used under typical use scenarios; however, less is known about chronic and reproductive effects. To minimize risk, applications during nesting season should be avoided if possible.


Reading the chart: For each bar, the labeled central value is the most likely estimate. The right end of the bar assumes worst-case conditions for all underlying variables; the left end of the bar assumes best-case conditions. Mitigation is advised if risk enters the red zone.

Taxa: Large birds.

Assumptions: Terrestrial application of herbicide at half of the maximum rate on a representative product’s label (see Table 4-1); 10-100% of diet is contaminated for several months.

Likelihood: Under spot applications it is unlikely that a high portion of any bird’s diet would be contaminated. With broadcast applications over any sizable area (unusual for wildland management) consider the feeding range of the wildlife relative to the treatment area.

Mitigation: Use low-volume applications and reduce the amount applied per acre. Don’t treat large contiguous areas all at once. Avoid contamination of plants known to be used as food sources by birds. Avoid treatments during nesting season.

Risk calculated as a function of: The inherent chronic toxicity of the herbicide to birds; the residue rate of herbicide on vegetation (which is proportional to the application rate). Except for glyphosate with the POEA surfactant, risks in this chart do not account for potential toxicity of any surfactants that are part of the product formulation or added to spray mixtures.

Methodology and sources

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