, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 409–425

Marine Foraging Birds As Bioindicators of Mercury in the Gulf of Maine


    • BioDiversity Research Institute
  • David C. Evers
    • BioDiversity Research Institute
  • Steven E. Mierzykowski
    • Maine Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Alexander L. Bond
    • Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research NetworkUniversity of New Brunswick
    • Department of BiologyMemorial University of Newfoundland
  • Neil M. Burgess
    • Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada
  • Catherine I. Otorowski
    • Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research NetworkUniversity of New Brunswick
  • Linda J. Welch
    • Maine Coastal Islands NWR U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • C. Scott Hall
    • National Audubon Society
  • Julie C. Ellis
    • Department of Environmental and Population Health, Cummings School of Veterinary MedicineTufts University
  • R. Bradford Allen
    • Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
  • Anthony W. Diamond
    • Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research NetworkUniversity of New Brunswick
  • Stephen W. Kress
    • National Audubon Society
  • Robert J. Taylor
    • Trace Element Research LabTexas A&M University
Original Contribution

DOI: 10.1007/s10393-009-0211-7

Cite this article as:
Goodale, M.W., Evers, D.C., Mierzykowski, S.E. et al. EcoHealth (2008) 5: 409. doi:10.1007/s10393-009-0211-7


From existing databases, we compiled and evaluated 604 total mercury (Hg) levels in the eggs and blood of 17 species of marine foraging birds from 35 Gulf of Maine islands to provide baseline data and to determine the best tissue, age class, and species for future biomonitoring. While mean Hg levels in most species did not exceed adverse effects thresholds, levels in some individual eggs did; for all species arithmetic mean egg Hg levels ranged from 0.04 to 0.62 (μg/g, wet weight). Piscivorous birds had higher Hg levels than invertivores. Leach’s storm-petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), razorbill (Alca torda), and black guillemot (Cepphus grylle) adult blood and egg Hg levels were higher than other species. Our results indicate that adult blood is preferable to chick blood for detecting long-term temporal trends because adult levels are higher and not confounded by metabolic effects. However, since we found that eggs and adult blood are comparable indicators of methylmercury bioavailability, we determined that eggs are the preferred tissue for long-term Hg monitoring because the relative ease in collecting eggs ensures consistent and robust datasets. We suggest specific sampling methods, and based on our results demonstrate that common eider (Somateria mollissima), Leach’s storm-petrel, double-crested cormorant, and black guillemot are the most effective bioindicators of Hg of the Gulf of Maine.


mercuryseabirdswaterbirdsGulf of Mainebioindicators

Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2009