Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 169–195

Spatial and Temporal Trends in Organochlorine Contamination and Bill Deformities in Double-Crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax Auritus) from the Canadian Great Lakes


  • D.P. Ryckman
  • D.V. Weseloh
    • Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region, Environment Canada
  • P. Hamr
    • Appleby College
  • G.A. Fox
    • Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre
  • B. Collins
    • Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre
  • P.J. Ewins
    • World Wildlife Fund
  • R.J. Norstrom
    • Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre

DOI: 10.1023/A:1006088130262

Cite this article as:
Ryckman, D., Weseloh, D., Hamr, P. et al. Environ Monit Assess (1998) 53: 169. doi:10.1023/A:1006088130262


The levels of organochlorine contaminants (OCs) in the eggs of double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) from the Canadian Great Lakes, Lake Nipigon and Lake-of-the-Woods were monitored between 1970 and 1995. PCBs and p,p′-DDE were present at the highest concentrations. Significant declines in OC concentrations on the Great Lakes were observed over this period for Lake Ontario, Lake Superior, Georgian Bay and North Channel but not Lake Erie where levels remained relatively stable. In the early 1970s, the greatest OC levels were generally observed in cormorant eggs from nesting sites in Georgian Bay and North Channel of Lake Huron. Between 1984 and 1995 mirex and PCB levels were consistently highest in samples from Lakes Ontario and Erie, respectively. Similar levels of PCDDs and PCDFs were observed from all regions of the Canadian Great Lakes in 1989. In general, OC levels in cormorant eggs between 1984-95 were ranked as follows: Lake Erie>Lake Ontario ≥ Lake Superior>Lake Huron. In 1995, eggshell thickness in Canadian Great Lakes cormorants, ranged from 0.423 to 0.440 mm and was on average only 2.3% thinner than pre-DDT era values. Between 1988 and 1996, 31 cormorant chicks with bill defects were observed at 16 different colonies (21% of all colonies surveyed) in Lakes Ontario and Superior, Georgian Bay and North Channel, and the main body of Lake Huron. No bill deformities were observed at reference sites in northwestern Ontario (Lake Nipigon and Lake-of-the-Woods). For the period 1988-96, the prevalence of bill defects in cormorant chicks (0.0 to 2.8/10,000 chicks) did not differ significantly (P > 0.05) among most regions in the Canadian Great Lakes. Georgian Bay was the only region to show a significant decrease in the prevalence of bill defects between the periods 1979-87 and 1988-95.

Double-crested cormorantPhalacrocorax auritusGreat Lakesorganochlorine contaminantsbill deformitieseggshell thickness

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998