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

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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.

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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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