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Ecotoxicology

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 379–391 | Cite as

Feather mercury concentrations in North American raptors sampled at migration monitoring stations

  • Ryan P. BourbourEmail author
  • Breanna L. Martinico
  • Joshua T. Ackerman
  • Mark P. Herzog
  • Angus C. Hull
  • Allen M. Fish
  • Joshua M. Hull
Article

Abstract

We assessed total mercury (THg) concentrations in breast feathers of diurnal North American raptors collected at migration monitoring stations. For 9 species in the Pacific Flyway, we found species and age influenced feather THg concentrations whereas sex did not. Feather THg concentrations µg/g dry weight (dw) averaged (least squares mean ± standard error) higher for raptors that generally consume > 75% avian prey (sharp-shinned hawk Accipiter striatus: n = 113; 4.35 ± 0.45 µg/g dw, peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus: n = 12; 3.93 ± 1.11 µg/g dw, Cooper’s hawk Accipiter cooperii: n = 20; 2.35 ± 0.50 µg/g dw, and merlin Falco columbarius: n = 59; 1.75 ± 0.28 µg/g dw) than for raptors that generally consume < 75% avian prey (northern harrier Circus hudsonius: n = 112; 0.75 ± 0.10 µg/g dw, red-tailed hawk Buteo jamaicensis: n = 109; 0.56 ± 0.06 µg/g dw, American kestrel Falco sparverius: n = 16; 0.57 ± 0.14 µg/g dw, prairie falcon Falco mexicanus: n = 10; 0.41 ± 0.13 µg/g dw) except for red-shouldered hawks Buteo lineatus: n = 10; 1.94 ± 0.61 µg/g dw. Feather THg concentrations spanning 13-years (2002–2014) in the Pacific Flyway differed among 3 species, where THg increased for juvenile northern harrier, decreased for adult red-tailed hawk, and showed no trend for adult sharp-shinned hawk. Mean feather THg concentrations in juvenile merlin were greater in the Mississippi Flyway (n = 56; 2.14 ± 0.18 µg/g dw) than those in the Pacific Flyway (n = 49; 1.15 ± 0.11 µg/g dw) and Intermountain Flyway (n = 23; 1.14 ± 0.16 µg/g dw), and Atlantic Flyway (n = 38; 1.75 ± 0.19 µg/g dw) averaged greater than the Pacific Flyway. Our results indicate that raptor migration monitoring stations provide a cost-effective sampling opportunity for biomonitoring environmental contaminants within and between distinct migration corridors and across time.

Keywords

Raptor Contaminants Biomagnification Biomonitoring Migration Methylmercury 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was partially funded by the U.S. Geological Survey Environmental Health Mission Area’s Contaminant Biology Program. We thank Matt Toney and Sarah Peterson for lab analyses. The use of trade, product, or firm names in the publication is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Feather sample contributors: Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, HawkWatch International, Cape May Bird Observatory, Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. We thank Ryan Phillips, Sara Kross, Megan Crane, Autumn Iverson, Brian Hoover, and Chris Tyson for feedback and support.

Funding

Funding was provided to J.T.A. by the U.S. Geological Survey Environmental Health Mission Area’s Contaminant Biology Program.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All national and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All raptor handling and feather collections were in compliance with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory standards as described in their Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocols. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal ScienceUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyWestern Ecological Research CenterDixonUSA
  3. 3.Golden Gate Raptor ObservatorySausalitoUSA

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