[ RadSafe ] Birds and radioactivity

Bjorn Cedervall bcradsafers at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 5 17:17:51 CST 2012

When I saw this paper last week I first noted that the article mentioned that 14 bird species were common for Chernobyl and Fukushima. The article did not give the species names however. Instead they appear in an attached appendix (separate file).
The appendix triggered my attention further because it was a long list of bird names in Latin. I decided to go through the list and see which the 14 species were. Numbers in parenthesis below = the number of observations, "neg" means negative slope = decline, I have here added the names in English:
Acrocephaus arundinaceus (17, neg), great reed warbler
Aegithalos caudatus (46), long-tailed tit
Alauda arvensis (3), skylark
Buteo buteo (10, neg), common buzzard
Corvus corone (103, neg), carrion crow
Delichon urbica (1), common house martin
Garrulus glandarius (8), eurasian jay
Hirundo rustica (144, neg), barn swallow
Motacilla alba (8, neg), white wagtail
Parus ater (17), coal tit
Parus major (56), great tit
Parus montanus (1), willow tit
Passer montanus (294, neg), euroasian tree sparrow
Troglodytes troglodytes (1), eurasian wren
In other words, six "common" species which have a negative slope dominated by the following three: carrion crow, barn swallow and euroasian tree sparrow. Most of the 14 species above are quite common in northern Europe. In addition, a field sparrow, Emberiza cioides (Meadow Bunting or Siberian Meadow Bunting) and Cetthia cetti (Cettis warbler) showed a decline.
The first three of these are clearly associated with humans to some extent. I would not be surprised if that also to some extent is true for the Emberiza species whereas I know nothing about the Cetthia except that it is a migratory bird.
So I have a question here: If people are evacuated from some of these areas - doesn't that then also mean the the life conditions for these birds also change? I doubt that this has anything to do with radiation dose as the doses are far too small to be expected to affect bird behavior. The slope in Fig. 2 in the paper - I wrote one of the authors and asked about the units - it is log(abundance) as a function of log/microSv/hour). From a strict point, the unit should not be in microSv as the sievert only is defined for humans.
Does RadSafer know anything about the behavior of the Cetthia species? Was it particularly cold in northern Japan last year or just "normal" (I'm thinking about the migratory pattern)? In addition, what does it mean for all these bird species that large areas were flooded?
I do not have the background material with me at this moment of writing but if I recall correctly, all Parus species and the related Aegithalos caudatus showed an increase in numbers. It may also be commented that the buzzard partly is associated with humans (like waiting along highways etc looking for road kill - something they probably won't do when the car traffic ceases).
My personal comment only,
Bjorn Cedervall, Stockholm, Sweden

> From: Karen_Street at sbcglobal.net> 
> The Economist has an article saying that more radioactivity, fewer birds, and the problem is twice as bad at Fukushima as Chernobyl.
> http://www.economist.com/node/21548920?frsc=dg|a
> One problem is that the reason they give at the end is so unlikely (different composition of radionuclides). Another is a question about who is doing the inventory at 35 µSv/hour locations, and how good the inventory is.
> --
> Best wishes, 
> Karen Street
> Friends Energy Project
> blog http://pathsoflight.us/musing/index.php
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