, Volume 126, Issue 1-3, pp 117-127
Date: 21 Oct 2006

Mercury and Growth of Tree Swallows at Acadia National Park, and at Orono, Maine, USA

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Abstract

In 1997 and 1998 we weighed nestling tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and measured selected body components at two colonies: Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island, and at Orono, ME. We used differences in mean growth variables among individual nestlings to evaluate differences between colonies, years, and amount of total mercury (THg) in carcasses and methyl mercury (MeHg) in feathers. We marked nestlings on the day hatched and measured body components every day in 1997 and every other day in 1998 until nestlings fledged. We calculated linear growth rates and asymptotic means as appropriate. In 1998, linear growth rate of weight was higher at Acadia than at Orono, but not different in 1997. We detected no mean differences in asymptotic mean weight of nestlings between colonies or years. In 1997, mean linear growth rates of the wing (chord), tail, tarsus, and mandible were higher at Acadia than at Orono. The amount of MeHg in feathers was associated with a lower linear growth rate of weight during early age (2–10 days), but asymptotic mean weight during days 11–16 was not different. No effect on linear growth of tail feathers or wing was associated with the amount of MeHg in feathers or THg in carcasses. Fledgling tree swallows that survive to migrate, however, will leave Maine with substantial concentrations of Hg in their tissues.