, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 209-224

First online:

Chlorinated Hydrocarbon Contamination in Osprey Eggs and Nestlings from the Canadian Great Lakes Basin, 1991–1995

  • Pamela A. MartinAffiliated withCanadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada Email author 
  • , Shane R. De SollaAffiliated withCanadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada
  • , Peter EwinsAffiliated withWorld Wildlife Fund

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Populations of osprey (Pandion haliaetus) in the Great Lakes basin declined dramatically during the 1950s–1970s due largely to adverse effects of persistent chlorinated hydrocarbons, ingested in their fish prey, on eggshell thickness and adult survival. Nevertheless, these contaminants were not measured in osprey tissues during the decades of decline on the Canadian Great Lakes. Between 1991 and 1995, we monitored recovering osprey populations on the Great Lakes, including Georgian Bay and the St. Marys River area on Lake Huron and the St. Lawrence Islands National Park, as well as at two inland sites within the basin. Current OC levels, even from the most contaminated lakes, were typically lower than those associated with reproductive effects. DDE levels in fresh eggs averaged 1.2–2.9 µg/g, well below the 4.2 µg/g level associated with significant eggshell thinning and shell breakage. Nevertheless, a proportion of eggs from all study areas did exceed this level. PCB levels in eggs seldom exceeded 5 µg/g except in one lake of high breeding density in the Kawartha Lakes inland study area, where the mean sum PCB level was 7.1 µg/g and the maximum concentration measured was 26.5 µg/g. On average, mean reproductive output (0.78–2.75 young per occupied nest) of breeding populations in Great Lakes basin study areas exceeded the threshold of 0.8 young thought necessary to maintain stable populations. We concluded that, although eggs and especially nestling plasma, are useful in reflecting local contaminant levels, ospreys are relatively insensitive, at least at the population level, to health effects of current levels of chlorinated hydrocarbons on the Canadian Great Lakes.

osprey PCBs pesticides dioxins reproduction