Temporal accumulation of Organochlorine pesticides in shorebirds wintering on the south Texas coast, 1979–80

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Abstract

Organochlorine pesticide residues were determined in 168 shorebirds of three species collected at approximate bimonthly intervals during the fall and winter months of 1979–80 near Port Mansfield on the south Texas coast. The study was conducted to determine if shorebirds wintering on mudflats at the outlets of agricultural drains in Texas accumulated pesticides during this period. The predominant Organochlorine residues detected in shorebirds were DDE, dieldrin, and toxaphene. Ninety-five % of the skinned carcasses analyzed contained detectable levels of DDE, 13% contained dieldrin, and 22% contained toxaphene. DDE significantly increased in all species of shorebirds from October to December, with potentially dangerous levels accumulating in some long-billed dowitchers (Limnodromus scolopaceus) and American avocets (Recurvirostra americana), but DDE residues seldom exceeded 0.5 ppm in carcasses of western sandpipers (Calidris mauri). After about two months on the study area, no further residue increases were documented. The high levels of DDE detected in a large proportion of the dowitchers, and to a lesser extent in the avocets, are near or within the range known to inhibit reproduction in some avian species. This study demonstrates that certain aquatic areas near agricultural lands on the south Texas coast may be potential threats to waterbirds eight years after the use of DDT was banned in the United States.