Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 351–355

Heavy metal and selenium levels in feathers of known-aged common terns (Sterna hirundo)

  • J. Burger
  • I. C. T. Nisbet
  • M. Gochfeld

DOI: 10.1007/BF00203562

Cite this article as:
Burger, J., Nisbet, I.C.T. & Gochfeld, M. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. (1994) 26: 351. doi:10.1007/BF00203562


Concentrations of five metals and selenium in the breast feathers of known-aged common terns (Sterna hirundo) were examined at a breeding colony in Massachusetts, USA. Concentrations of selenium, chromium, and manganese increased significantly with age among adults (2–21 years old), whereas concentrations of mercury, cadmium, and lead did not. Concentrations of cadmium, selenium and manganese were lower in fledglings (20–23 days old) than in adults. Concentrations of mercury, however, were higher in fledglings than in adults, and concentrations of chromium were higher in fledglings than in young adults, probably reflecting higher exposure to these metals in the breeding area than in the winter quarters where the adults' feathers were grown. At least for mercury, excretion of metals into the feathers at each molt was an efficient protective mechanism, preventing continued accumulation in the body with increasing age.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Burger
    • 1
    • 2
  • I. C. T. Nisbet
    • 3
  • M. Gochfeld
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesRutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA
  2. 2.Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences InstitutePiscatawayUSA
  3. 3.I.C.T. Nisbet and CompanyNorth FalmouthUSA
  4. 4.Department of Environmental and Community MedicineUMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolPiscatawayUSA