Notorious Bird Poison Avitrol Up for Reregistration

by Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently reviewing the registration for the bird poison Avitrol™. The EPA should take this opportunity to remove this dangerous and inhumane product from the market.

Residents of Portland are all too familiar with Avitrol. In 2014 and again in 2018, crows poisoned with Avitrol rained from the sky over dozens of blocks in Portland. Some crows were dead before they hit the ground. Others lay on the ground seizing, convulsing, and screaming before succumbing to the poison. They crashed into yards, parks, sidewalks, streets, and parking lots. Because it would take weeks to identify the cause of death, these horrific events required a variety of local, state, and federal agencies to respond. Bird Alliance of Oregon staff and volunteers spent days collecting dead birds from neighborhoods due to concern that the presence of poisoned crows could result in secondary poisoning of pets and other wildlife as well as human exposure. The situation was so bad that Commissioner Nick Fish led the Portland City Council in banning the use of this poison on city property in 2019. And Portland is not alone. There have been other highly problematic events related to this poison documented in Bend, Oregon; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; New York City; Halifax, Nova Scotia; London, Ontario; and Houston, Texas.

An American Crow standing on asphalt near a lawn.
American Crow, photo by Mick Thompson.

Avitrol is a neurotoxin that is put out in bait to address avian conflict situations. Although it is described by the manufacturer as a “scaring agent,” a closer reading of the label reveals that in fact Avitrol has “acute dermal and oral toxicity” properties and that “birds that react and alarm a flock usually die.” Although applicators are required to collect poisoned birds, the manner in which the poison is used results in a situation where birds can travel long distances before succumbing.

The EPA reviews pesticide registrations on a 15-year basis. Its draft review of Avitrol appears to be surprisingly deficient. Although incidents in Portland and across North America were widely reported and come up by simply googling “Avitrol,” the EPA reported that it did not have knowledge of any ecological incidents resulting from registered uses or uses of unknown legality since 2012. National Geographic covered the issue as recently as 2020. The EPA also inexplicably waived a requirement that it had placed on the manufacturer in 2016 to produce seven ecotoxicity studies and six environmental fate studies in order to support the reregistration process.