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



Shelagh T. DeLiberto https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9936-487X

Date of this Version



Werner SJ, DeLiberto ST, McLean HE, Horak KE, VerCauteren KC (2021) Toxicity of sodium nitrite-based vertebrate pesticides for European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). PLoS ONE 16(3): e0246277. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0246277


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In the 21st century, invasive animals rank second only to habitat destruction as the greatest threat to global biodiversity. Socially-acceptable and cost-effective strategies are needed to reduce the negative economic and environmental impacts of invasive animals. We investigated the potential for sodium nitrite (SN; CAS 7632-00-0) to serve as an avian toxicant for European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris L.). We also assessed the non-target hazard of an experimental formulation of SN that is being developed as a toxicant for invasive wild pigs (Sus scrofa L.). In gavage experiments with European starlings, we identified a lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) for mortality of 2.40% technical SN (w/v; 120 mg SN/ kg body mass) and a no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) for mortality of 1.30% technical SN (65 mg/kg). The exposure of ten starlings to the experimental formulation of SN (10% SN pig toxicant) resulted in one starling mortality during four days of exposure to the toxic bait. Sodium nitrite toxicity presented a moderate hazard to European starlings; thus, the future development of SN as an avian toxicant is dependent upon its cost-effectiveness. We discuss the management of toxic effects and non-target hazards of SN for wild birds, including best practices for toxic baiting of vertebrate pests and management of invasive wild pigs.