, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 175-181

Blood Lead Concentrations of Spectacled Eiders Near the Kashunuk River, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

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Abstract

We collected, 342 blood samples from spectacled eiders (Somateria fischeri) on their breeding grounds in western Alaska from late May through to early August 1993–1995. Lead concentrations of ≥0.50 p.p.m. wet weight were found in the blood of 20% of the adult female eiders, 2% of the adult males and 6% of the ducklings. Lead was detected (≥0.02 p.p.m.) more frequently in the blood of adult females than in adult males or ducklings and the maximum concentrations were 14.37, 0.50 and 4.28 p.p.m. wet weight, respectively. In adult females, there was a significant difference in the proportion of detectable blood lead concentrations between three collection times (arrival/nesting, hatch and brood rearing), with the highest proportion (92%) occurring at hatch. Nine hens with blood lead concentrations of ≥0.50 p.p.m. were captured a second time several weeks to 1 year later. In the hens sampled twice at intervals of several weeks, the blood lead concentrations increased and declined at mean daily rates of 1.10 and 0.94, respectively. The lead concentrations in the blood of adults were not correlated with body weights. Radiographs were taken of 119 eiders and corresponding blood samples from 98 of these birds were analysed for lead. Ingested shot was seen in X-rays of 12 adults and three ducklings and, of the 13 blood samples tested, all had detectable lead concentrations. Of the birds without radiographic evidence of ingested shot, 84% of the adult females, 19% of the adult males and 17% of the ducklings had detectable lead concentrations in their blood. Breeding ground exposure of waterfowl to lead shot is unusual and is of particular concern in spectacled eiders because of their threatened status and declining numbers in western Alaska.