Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 456-461

First online:

Mercury Distribution in Blood, Tissues, and Feathers of Double-Crested Cormorant Nestlings from Arid-Lands Reservoirs in South Central New Mexico

  • C. A.  CaldwellAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey/Biological Resources Division, New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Box 30003, MSC 4901, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003-8003, USA
  • , M. A.  ArnoldAffiliated withU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management, 4401 North Fairfax Dr., Arlington, Virginia 22203, USA
  • , W. R.  GouldAffiliated withUniversity Statistics Center, Box 30001, MSC 3CQ, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003-8001, USA

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Eggs, blood, liver, muscle, and feathers were analyzed for concentrations of total mercury in double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) nestlings from two reservoirs in south central New Mexico. Total mercury concentrations among eggs, tissues, and feathers were not significantly correlated. Concentrations of total mercury averaged 0.40 μg/g in liver and 0.18 μg/g in muscle tissues in both populations of nestlings. There were no significant changes in concentrations of total mercury in whole blood of nestlings collected 7–10 days and 17–22 days posthatch in Caballo Reservoir (0.36 μg/g and 0.39 μg/g, respectively) and in Elephant Butte Reservoir (0.36 μg/g and 0.34 μg/g, respectively). Total mercury concentrations were similar for blood, muscle, and liver in nestlings for both reservoirs. Total mercury concentrations were higher in eggs and tail, primary, and secondary feathers from nestlings at Caballo Reservoir compared to Elephant Butte Reservoir. Although there were no differences in concentrations of total mercury in fishes between the two reservoirs, bioaccumulation and biomagnification was evident in planktivorous and piscivorous fishes. The data demonstrate that feather analysis may not be a good predictor of tissue burden in nestlings from regions of low contamination.