The use of bird feathers for the monitoring of cadmium pollution

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Abstract

The cadmium contamination mechanism in bird feathers was investigated using starlings fed with diets containing 10 and 50 ppm Cd for five months. The experiment started about two months before the beginning of the annual complete feather molt and lasted until most of the birds completed the molt of the primaries. Concentrations of Cd in liver, kidney, and uropygial gland were highly correlated, but uropygial gland concentration was about 100 times lower. Cadmium was found both in old and new feathers, in a dose-related manner. Old. feathers showed higher metal concentrations than new ones and primaries higher than secondaries. Feather Cd concentration correlated with Cd concentration in liver, kidney, and the uropygial gland. The use of bird feathers are, therefore, a reliable method for monitoring cadmium pollution, but differences between feather type and age must be considered to correctly interpret data collected in the field.