Mercury Exposure and Effects on Cavity-Nesting Birds from the Carson River, Nevada
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- Custer, C.M., Custer, T.W. & Hill, E.F. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2007) 52: 129. doi:10.1007/s00244-006-0103-6
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Mercury (Hg) concentrations were 15–40 times higher in the eggs and livers of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) that nested along the Carson River at and below Dayton, Nevada than in the same species above the mining-impacted areas. Hg contamination was mainly the result of processing mills in the 1800s that used Hg to separate gold and silver from ore. The exposure pattern of tree swallows and house wrens along the Carson River was consistent with their trophic status (i.e., lower levels in liver tissue of aquatic insectivores than in piscivorous birds nesting nearby). Even though they are aquatic insectivores, tree swallows and house wrens were exposed to the same amount of Hg as piscivores in the Florida Everglades; this indicated the extreme level of Hg contamination in the Carson River. Only 70–74% of the eggs hatched. This was less than the nationwide average for these two species that generally hatch ≥85% of eggs. Although the sample size was small, Hg might be impacting reproductive end points in cavity-nesting birds from the Carson River. Other trace elements were present at background concentrations.