Excrement from Heron colonies for environmental assessment of toxic elements
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Excrement cast from Great Blue Heron nests was collected during the nesting period of 1978 from four colonies in Washington and Idaho. Cheesecloth strips placed on the ground beneath the nests served as excrement collecting devices. Chemical analysis for lead, mercury and cadmium were performed on dried samples. Lead was the most abundant trace metal found in heron debris. The Idaho colony at Lake Chatcolet had an average concentration of 46 ppm in the beneath-nest samples and 6 ppm in control samples. A heron colony near Tacoma, Washington had beneath-nest samples averaging 28 ppm and control samples averaging 20 ppm. Two colonies located in the interior region of Washington had substantially lower concentrations of lead. The difference observed between colonies was attributed to their associations with a polluted watershed (Chatcolet colony) an interstate highway (Tacoma colony) and an unpopulated largely agricultural area (inland Washington).
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