, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 33-40

First online:

Mercury dynamics in young Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) chicks from a polluted environment

  • Peter H. BeckerAffiliated withInstitut für Vogelforschung
  • , Robert W. FurnessAffiliated withApplied Ornithology Unit, Zoology Department, Glasgow University
  • , Diana HenningAffiliated withInstitut für Vogelforschung

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We studied mercury concentrations and amounts in tissues of 19 starved young Common Tern chicks (median age 4 days) and in eggs from the same colony. Concentrations and burden were similar between eggs and newly hatched chicks. Mercury concentrations were highest in down, which contained at least 38% of the body mercury. The mercury burden of the whole body and of the tissues as well as the concentration in down increased with age and body mass, indicating the importance of down as an elimination pathway. Conversion ratios between mercury concentrations in tissues and the whole chick body varied according to the contamination level.


mercury body distribution feather concentrations body burden tern chicks