, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 514-521
Date: 10 Apr 2009

The corticosterone stress response and mercury contamination in free-living tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


We determined mercury concentrations in tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor, from Massachusetts and Maine with different levels of contamination. Baseline and stress-induced plasma corticosterone concentrations from adults and nestlings (Massachusetts only) were compared with mercury concentrations. In Massachusetts, adult baseline corticosterone was negatively correlated with blood mercury, but showed a nearly-significant positive correlation with feather mercury. There was a negative relationship between baseline corticosterone and blood mercury in nestlings and between baseline corticosterone and egg mercury. There was no relationship between mercury and stress-induced corticosterone in any of the groups, or with baseline corticosterone in Maine sites where mercury levels were lower. The findings suggest blood and egg mercury may be a better indicator of current condition than feather mercury. Further, mercury contamination may not alter stress-induced corticosterone concentrations in tree swallows but appears to have a significant impact on baseline circulating corticosterone.