Birds feeding on tebuconazole treated seeds have reduced breeding output

Environ Pollut. 2021 Feb 15;271:116292. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2020.116292. Epub 2020 Dec 17.


Drilled seeds are an important food resource for many farmland birds but may pose a serious risk when treated with pesticides. Most compounds currently used as seed treatment in the EU have low acute toxicity but may still affect birds in a sub-chronic or chronic way, especially considering that the sowing season lasts several weeks or months, resulting in a long exposure period for birds. Tebuconazole is a triazole fungicide widely used in agriculture but its toxicity to birds remains largely unknown. Our aim was to test if a realistic scenario of exposure to tebuconazole treated seeds affected the survival and subsequent reproduction of the red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa). We fed captive partridges with wheat seeds treated with 0%, 20% or 100% of tebuconazole application rate during 25 days in late winter (i.e. tebuconazole dietary doses were approximately 0.2 and 1.1 mg/kg bw/day). We studied treatment effects on the physiology (i.e. body weight, biochemistry, immunology, oxidative stress, coloration) and reproduction of partridges. Exposed birds did not reduce food consumption but presented reduced plasmatic concentrations of lipids (triglycerides at both exposure doses, cholesterol at high dose) and proteins (high dose). The coloration of the eye ring was also reduced in the low dose group. Exposure ended 60 days before the first egg was laid, but still affected reproductive output: hatching rate was reduced by 23% and brood size was 1.5 times smaller in the high dose group compared with controls. No significant reproductive effects were found in the low dose group. Our results point to the need to study the potential endocrine disruption mechanism of this fungicide with lagged effects on reproduction. Risk assessments for tebuconazole use as seed treatment should be revised in light of these reported effects on bird reproduction.

Keywords: Endocrine disruption; Farmland birds; Hatching success; Risk assessment; Triazole fungicide.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fungicides, Industrial* / toxicity
  • Plant Breeding*
  • Reproduction
  • Seeds
  • Triazoles / toxicity


  • Fungicides, Industrial
  • Triazoles
  • tebuconazole