Man-made pollution is leaving the birds with neurological changes

It’s up to humans to save the animals, now the birds are reflecting that, too.

A new report from the Center for Biological Diversity says that 35 percent of North American brown pelicans and 19 percent of American robins are exhibiting neurological changes that indicate something is wrong. It’s a matter of survival for the birds, which rely heavily on food from coastal flooding and runoff.

Environmental factors like nitrogen and phosphorous pollution from runoff and land development are directly affecting the birds’ health.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Forest Service and other organizations tested samples of birds for neurological issues including decline in hearing, insight and memory, and behavior changes such as an inability to fly or head back to shore after feasting.

From the report:

The birds often ate their hatchlings, leading to deformities in two-thirds of the nests examined, the researchers found. A remaining third of female brown pelicans and one-fifth of female American robins displayed noticeable behavioral shifts during the two-year study.

While scientists have been studying these effects for years, the most recent findings solidify a link between wildlife changes and environmental pollution. In a separate effort, researchers at the University of Washington found a connection between decline in wetlands and declines in the sex lives of bald eagles and brown pelicans. For the bald eagles, it’s a sexually inactive male population, resulting in fewer chicks. The same is true for the brown pelicans, which have low reproduction rates.

The Washington Post reports:

The report calls for banning toxic chemicals, stabilizing sea levels and halting land development on coastal plains.

“The effects of our changing environment have been detected with surprising frequency and reliability in our species’ key physiological and behavioral adaptations,” co-author Jessica Mosbacher said in a statement. “We now know it’s time to consider these human-induced changes when planning for natural habitats.”

To read the full report, click here.

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