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

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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.




Bourbour, R. P., Martinico, B. L., Ackerman, J. T., Herzog, M. P., Hull, A. C., Fish, A. M., & Hull, J. M. (2019). Feather mercury concentrations in North American raptors sampled at migration monitoring stations. Ecotoxicology, 28(4), 379–391. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10646-019-02016-2

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