Date: August 6, 2018
Source: University of York
Female starlings who have ingested dilute concentrations of antidepressants while feeding on worms, maggots and flies at sewage treatment plants appear to be less attractive to the opposite sex.
During courtship male starlings sing less to females who have been fed dilute concentrations of antidepressants, according to a new study led by the University of York.
The researchers studied the birds at sewage works where birds flock to feed all year round. But the worms, maggots and flies at sewage treatment plants have been found to contain many different pharmaceuticals, including Prozac.
The study showed that dilute concentrations of Prozac similar to those measured at sewage works appeared to make female starlings less attractive to the opposite sex.
In 2016, there were 64.7 million antidepressant items prescribed in the UK. Some of these compounds are stable in the environment and break down slowly once they've passed through our bodies and into sewage-treatment systems.
Dr Kathryn Arnold and Sophia Whitlock, from the Environment Department at the University of York, have been studying the effects of environmental levels of fluoxetine (commonly known as Prozac) on starlings for a number of years. They have discovered changes in the behaviour of these starlings that could put birds at risk in the wild.