, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 1467–1475 | Cite as

Regional and interspecific variation in Sr, Ca, and Sr/Ca ratios in avian eggshells from the USA

  • Miguel A. Mora
  • Bryan Brattin
  • Catherine Baxter
  • James W. Rivers


To examine regional variation in strontium (Sr), which at high concentrations may reduce eggshell quality, increase egg breakage and reproductive failure, we analyzed Sr, and calcium (Ca) concentrations and Sr/Ca ratios in eggshells from 20 avian species from California, Texas, Idaho, Kansas, and Michigan. In addition, we included data previously reported from Arizona to expand the regional comparisons and to better establish patterns of Sr, and Sr/Ca ratios in bird species across the United States. We found Sr concentrations varied significantly among regions, among species, and among foraging guilds; this variability is strongly influenced by the Sr/Ca ratios in surface water from locations close to the region where the eggshells were collected. Sr concentrations and Sr/Ca ratios were significantly higher in bird eggshells from the Volta wildlife region in the San Joaquin Valley, California and in various locales from Arizona. Sr concentrations and Sr/Ca ratios in bird eggshells from other locations in the USA were lower than those detected in these two regions. Among foraging guilds, invertivores had the highest Sr concentrations and Sr/Ca ratios and carnivores had the lowest. In general, the Sr/Ca ratio increased strongly with increasing Sr concentrations (R2 = 0.99, P < 0.0001). There was a significant correlation (R2 = 0.58, P < 0.0001) between Sr/Ca ratios in water and the average Sr/Ca ratios in eggshells suggesting that these values could be determined from Sr/Ca ratios in water. Eggshell thickness was poorly correlated with Sr (R2 = 0.03) but had a significant and positive correlation with Ca and was more properly correlated by a quadratic equation (R2 = 0.50, Thickness = 2.13 − 0.02Ca − 3.07 * 10−5Ca2). Our study provides further evidence that Sr accumulates significantly in the avian eggshell, in some regions at concentrations which could be of concern for potential negative effects on reproduction. We suggest that when assessing the effects of metals on avian reproduction in regions with high Sr deposits in rock and soil, Sr concentrations in the eggshell also should be measured to evaluate additional effects on thickness and reproduction.


Avian eggshell Calcium (Ca) Strontium (Sr) Sr/Ca ratios 



We greatly appreciate the kindness and contribution of various individuals, including R. Hothem, D. Best, C. Thomas, and the Peregrine Fund Inc, who provided some of eggshells for the Sr analysis. R. Taylor and M. Woodin and two anonymous reviewers provided useful comments which improved the manuscript. M. Speed and D. Jann assisted with part of the data analysis. M. Blundell, J. Hite, B. Van Korff assisted with eggshell collection at Konza Prairie.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miguel A. Mora
    • 1
  • Bryan Brattin
    • 2
    • 4
  • Catherine Baxter
    • 1
  • James W. Rivers
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Wildlife and Fisheries SciencesTexas A&M UniversityTXUSA
  2. 2.Trace Element Research LaboratoryTexas A&M UniversityTXUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forest Ecosystems & SocietyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical SciencesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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