U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Document Type


Date of this Version



Poultry Science 85 (2006) pp. 1275–1284


Contraception may provide a useful nonlethal management tool to reduce wild bird populations. We tested the efficacy of nicarbazin (NCZ) as a contraceptive for waterfowl and assessed health effects of NCZ, using domestic mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) as a model for Canada geese (Branta canadensis). Mallards were given gelatin capsules containing 0, 8.5, 17.0, or 33.75 mg of NCZ/kg of BW perorally once daily for 14 d. Fecal 4,4′- dinitrocarbanilide (DNC) and fluorescein were evaluated as potential markers of plasma and egg DNC levels. Plasma, egg, and fecal DNC levels differed among treatment groups in a dose response relationship. There were no significant effects on the numbers of eggs laid per female per day, proportion of fertile eggs, proportion of eggs hatching, or egg yolk mottling. Hatchability was 0.55 ± 0.1 in the control group compared with 0.26 ± 0.1 in the 33.75 mg/kg of BW group. Degeneration of the vitelline membrane was evident at all treatment levels; severity was dose-related and greater in the outer vitelline membrane than the inner vitelline membrane. No significant health effects were observed for birds treated with NCZ. The heterophil:lymphocyte ratio was elevated during the treatment and posttreatment periods in all groups, indicating birds were experiencing stress due to handling. Fecal DNC levels did not correlate well with plasma DNC levels, likely due to NCZ being administered as a bolus dose rather than being fed ad libitum. Fluorescein correlated well with plasma DNC levels during the treatment period and can therefore be used successfully as a noninvasive marker to determine the approximate amount of NCZ a bird is consuming. As a contraceptive, NCZ likely would have minimal adverse health effects on the target animal, although field studies with the species of interest need to be conducted. Further research using higher NCZ levels needs to be conducted to determine whether NCZ can inhibit reproduction in waterfowl.