Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 14, pp 14271–14276 | Cite as

Selection of tawny owl (Strix aluco) flight feather shaft for biomonitoring As, Cd and Pb pollution

  • Rita García Seoane
  • Zulema Varela Río
  • Alejo Carballeira Ocaña
  • José Ángel Fernández Escribano
  • Jesús Ramón Aboal Viñas
Short Research and Discussion Article


In this study, we determined the concentrations of As, Cd and Pb in the shaft of all primary flight feathers from ten tawny owl (Strix aluco) specimens, with the aim of selecting which shaft of the corresponding primary feather should be used in biomonitoring surveys to enable inter-individual comparisons of the levels of these metals. The birds had died between 2006 and 2013 and their bodies were stored in the various Wildlife Recovery Centres in Galicia (NW Spain). The analyses revealed a high degree of inter-shaft variability, mainly in the concentrations of As and Cd. However, it was possible to identify the most representative samples in each case: for As, the shaft of primary flight feather number 5 (S5) (which represented 11% of the total As excreted in all of the primary flight feathers); for Cd, the shaft of primary flight feather number 2 (S2) (11% of the total excreted); and for Pb, the shaft of primary flight feather number 8 (S8) (14% of the total excreted). However, the difficulties associated with the analytical determination of these pollutants in the shaft should be taken into account when this technique is applied in biomonitoring studies.


Air pollution Bioaccumulation Biomonitoring Feather Raptor Terrestrial food chain 



We thank all the personnel at the Wildlife Recovery Centres of the Xunta de Galicia for helping in obtaining the samples.

Funding information

The authors are members of the Galician Competitive Research Group GRC/GPC2016-002 and of the CRETUS Strategic Partnership (AGRUP2015/02), which are co-funded by FEDER (EU).

Supplementary material

11356_2018_1477_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rita García Seoane
    • 1
  • Zulema Varela Río
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alejo Carballeira Ocaña
    • 1
  • José Ángel Fernández Escribano
    • 1
  • Jesús Ramón Aboal Viñas
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecology Unit, Department Functional BiologyUniversidade de Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  2. 2.Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (cE3c)Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Campo GrandeLisboaPortugal

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