, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 514–521

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


    • Department of BiologyTufts University
  • Oksana P. Lane
    • BioDiversity Research Institute
  • David C. Evers
    • BioDiversity Research Institute
  • J. Michael Reed
    • Department of BiologyTufts University
  • Bart Hoskins
    • US Environmental Protection AgencyNew England Regional Laboratory
  • L. Michael Romero
    • Department of BiologyTufts University

DOI: 10.1007/s10646-009-0309-2

Cite this article as:
Franceschini, M.D., Lane, O.P., Evers, D.C. et al. Ecotoxicology (2009) 18: 514. doi:10.1007/s10646-009-0309-2


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.


CorticosteroneMercuryStressTree swallows

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009