Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 229–251 | Cite as

Geographical distribution of organochlorine contaminants and reproductive parameters in Herring Gulls on Lake Superior in 1983

  • D. V. Chip Weseloh
  • Peter J. Ewins
  • John Struger
  • Pierre Mineau
  • Ross J. Norstrom


As part of the Great Lakes International Surveillance Plan, 1978–83, egg contaminant levels and reproductive output were determined for Herring Gull colonies on Lake Superior in 1983. Since 1974, the Herring Gull has been widely used in the Great Lakes as a spatial and temporal monitor of organochlorine (OC) contaminant levels and associated biological effects. Most eggs contained a wide range of OCs, the main compounds being DDE, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dieldrin, heptachlor epoxide, oxychlordane, hexachlorobenzene and mirex. Levels of an additional ten OCs and five polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin (PCDD) congeners were also determined for some sites. Overall, levels varied significantly among colonies, but there was no obvious relationship to spatial distribution of contaminants in sediments or fish species. OC levels in eggs had declined by up to 84% since 1974. Eggshells were only 8% thinner than before the introduction of DDT, and shell thinning was not a cause of breeding failure. Average reproductive output varied from 0.15 to 1.57 young per apparently occupied nest in 1983: at 56% of colonies the value was below that thought necessary to maintain stable populations. The main causes of failure were egg disappearence and cannibalism of chicks. Despite this, the population appeared to have been increasing at about 4% per annum. Reduced availability of forage fish during the early 1980s was the most likely reason for the poor reproductive output in 1983.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aebischer, N.J. and Coulson, J.C.: 1990, ‘Survival of the Kittiwake in Relation to Sex, Year, Breeding Experience and Position in the Colony’, J. Anim. Ecol. 59, 1063–1071.Google Scholar
  2. Ainley, D.G. and Boekelheide, R.J. (Eds.): 1990, Seabirds of the Farallon Island, Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, California.Google Scholar
  3. Allan, L.J.: 1977, ‘The Comparative Feeding Ecology Relative to Population Dynamics of the Herring and Ring-billed Gulls (Larus argentatus and Larus delawarensis) and Some Comparisons With the Caspian Tern’, M.Sc. Thesis, Queen's University, Ontario, 196 pp. Unpublished.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, D.W. and Hickey, J.J.: 1972, ‘Eggshell Changes in Certain North American Birds’, Proc. Int. Ornithol. Congr. XV, 514–540.Google Scholar
  5. Armstrong, R.W. and Sloan, R.J.: 1980, ‘Trends in Levels of Several Known Chemical Contaminants in Fish from New York State Waters’, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Technical Report 80–2, pp. 77.Google Scholar
  6. Bagdovitz, M.S., Taylor, W.W., Wagner, W.C., Nicolette, J.P., and Spangier, G.R.: 1986, ‘Pink Salmon Populations in the U.S. Waters of Lake Superior, 1981–1984’, J. Great Lakes Res. 12, 72–81.Google Scholar
  7. Bahnick, D.A. and Markee, T.P.: 1985, ‘Occurrence and Transport of Organic Microcontaminants in the Duluth-Superior Harbor’, J. Great Lakes Res. 11, 143–155.Google Scholar
  8. Baumann, P.C. and Whittle, D.M.: 1988, ‘The Status of Selected Organics in the Laurentian Great Lakes: An Overview of DDT, PCBs, Dioxins, Furans, and Aromatic Hydrocarbons’, Aquatic Toxicol. 11, 241–257.Google Scholar
  9. Bishop, C.A., Weseloh, D.V., Burgess, N.M., Struger, J., Norstrom, R.J., Turle, R., and Logan, K.A.: 1992, ‘An Atlas of Contaminants in Eggs of Fish-Eating Colonial Birds of the Great Lakes (1970–1988)’, Canadian Wildlife Technical Report Series No. 152.Google Scholar
  10. Blokpoel, H., Ryder, J.P., Seddon, I., and Carswell, W.R.: 1980, ‘Colonial Waterbirds Nesting in Canadian Lake Superior in 1978’, Canadian Wildlife Service Progress Note No. 118.Google Scholar
  11. Capel, P.D. and Eisenreich, S.J.: 1985, ‘PCBs in Lake Superior, 1978–1980’, J. Great Lakes Res. 11, 447–461.Google Scholar
  12. Cooke, A.S.: 1973, ‘Shell Thinning in Avian Eggs by Environmental Pollutants’, Environ. Pollut. 4, 85–152.Google Scholar
  13. Coulson, J.C.: 1968, ‘Differences in the Quality of Birds Nesting in the Centre and on the Edge of a Colony’, Nature 217, 478–479.Google Scholar
  14. DeVault, D.S., Willford, W.A., Hesselberg, R.J., Nortrupt, D.A., Rundberg, E.G.S., Alwan, A.K., and Bautista, C.: 1986, ‘Contaminant Trends in Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) from the upper Great Lakes’, Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 15, 349–356.Google Scholar
  15. Eisenreich, S.J., Hollod, G.J., and Johnson, T.C.: 1979, ‘Accumulation of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in Surficial Lake Superior Sediments: Atmospheric Deposition’, Environ. Sci. Technol. 13, 569–573.Google Scholar
  16. Eisenreich, S.J., Hollod, G.J., Johnson, T.C., and Evans, J.: 1980, ‘Polychlorinated Biphenyl and Other Microcontaminant-Sediment Interactions in Lake Superior’, in Baker, R.A. (Ed.), Contaminants and Sediments, Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Science Publishers Inc., Michigan, pp. 67–94.Google Scholar
  17. Eisenreich, S.J., Hollod, G.J., and Johnson, T.C.: 1981a, ‘Concentrations and Deposition of Polychlorinated Biphenyls to Lake Superior’, in S.J. Eisenreich (Ed.), Atmospheric Input of Pollutants in Natural Waters, Ann Arbor Science Publishers Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan, pp. 425–444.Google Scholar
  18. Eisenreich, S.J., Looney, B.B., and Thornton, J.D.: 1981b, ‘Airborne Organic Contaminants in the Great Lakes Ecosystem’, Environ. Sci. Technol. 15, 30–38.Google Scholar
  19. Eisenreich, S.J., Looney, B.B., and Hollod, G.J.: 1983, ‘PCBs in the Lake Superior Atmosphere 1978–1980’, in Mackay, D., Paterson, S., and Simmons, M. (Eds.), Physical Behavior of PCBs in the Great Lakes, Ann Arbor Science Press, Michigan, pp. 115–126.Google Scholar
  20. El-Shaarawi, A. and Manuwar, M.: 1978, ‘Statistical Evaluation of the Relationships Between Phytoplankton Biomass, Chlorophyll A, and Primary Production in Lake Superior’, J. Great Lakes Res. 4, 443–455.Google Scholar
  21. Elliott, J.E.: 1984, ‘Collecting and Archiving Wildlife Samples in Canada’, in Lewis, R.A., Stein, N., and Lewis, C.W. (Eds.), Environmental Specimen Banking and Monitoring as Related to Banking, Martinus Nijhoff, Boston & The Hague, pp. 45–66.Google Scholar
  22. Environment Canada: 1987, Historical Water Levels Summary Ontario, Water Survey of Canada, Ottawa.Google Scholar
  23. Ewins, P.J., Weseloh, D.V., and Mineau, P.: 1992, ‘Geographical Variation in Organochlorine Contamination and Reproductive Parameters of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) in Lake Huron, 1980’, J. Great Lakes Res. 18, 316–330.Google Scholar
  24. Ewins, P.J., Weseloh, D.V., Groom, J.H., Dobos, R.Z., and Mineau, P.: 1993, ‘The Diet of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) During Winter and Early Spring on the Lower Great Lakes’, Hydrobiolgia 279/280: (in press).Google Scholar
  25. Fox, G.A., Gilman, A.P., Peakall, D.B., and Anderka, F.W.: 1978, ‘Behavioural Abnormalities of Nesting Lake Ontario Herring Gulls’, J. Wildl. Manage. 42, 477–483.Google Scholar
  26. Fox, G.A., Kennedy, S.W., Norstrom, R.J., and Wigfield, D.C.: 1988, ‘Porphyria in Herring Gulls: a Biochemical Response to Chemical Contamination of Great Lakes Food Chains’, Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 7, 831–839.Google Scholar
  27. Fox, G.A., Allan, L.J., Weseloh, D.V., and Mineau, P.: 1990, ‘The Diet of Herring Gulls During the Nesting Period in Canadian Waters of the Great Lakes’, Can. J. Zool. 68, 1075–1085.Google Scholar
  28. Fox, G.A., Weseloh, D.V., Kubiak, T.J., and Erdman, T.: 1991, ‘Reproductive Outcomes in Colonial Fish-Eating Birds: a Biomarker for Developmental Toxicants in Great Lakes Food Chains. 1. Historical and Ecotoxicologial Perspectives’, J. Great Lakes Res. 17, 153–157.Google Scholar
  29. Frank, R., Thomas, R.L., Braun, H.E., Rasper, J., and Dawson, R.: 1980, ‘Organochlorine insecticides and PCB in the surficial sediments of Lake Superior (1973)’, J. Great Lakes Res. 6, 113–120.Google Scholar
  30. Gilbertson, M.E.: 1974, ‘Pollutants in Breeding Herring Gulls in the Lower Great Lakes’, Can. Field-Nat. 88, 273–280.Google Scholar
  31. Gilbertson, M. and Hale, R.: 1974, ‘Early Embryonic Mortality in a Herring Gull Colony in Lake Ontario’, Can. Field-Nat. 88, 354–356.Google Scholar
  32. Gilbertson, M. and Fox, G.A.: 1977, ‘Pollutant-Associated Embryonic Mortality of Great Lakes Herring Gulls’, Environ. Pollut. 12, 211–216.Google Scholar
  33. Gilman, A.P., Fox, G.A., Peakall, D.B., Teeple, S.M., Carroll, T.R., and Haymes, G.T.: 1977, ‘Reproductive Parameters and Egg Contaminant Levels of Great Lakes Herring Gulls’, J. Wildl. Manage. 41, 458–468.Google Scholar
  34. Glass, G.E. and Poldoski, J.E.: 1974, ‘Interstitial Water Components and Exchange Across the Sediment Interface of Western Lake Superior’, Proc. XIX Congress, Internat. Assoc. Limnol., Winnipeg, Canada.Google Scholar
  35. Goodernote, D.: 1980, ‘Herring Gull Nest Counts on the North Shore of Lake Superior’, Loon 52, 15–17.Google Scholar
  36. Government of Canada: 1991, Toxic Chemicals in the Great Lakes and Associated Effects, Environment Canada, Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, and Health and Welfare Canada, Ottawa, 51 pp.Google Scholar
  37. Hario, M.: 1990, ‘Breeding Failure and Feeding Conditions of Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus f. fuscus in the Gulf of Finland’, Ornis Fennica 67, 113–129.Google Scholar
  38. Hartman, W.L.: 1988, ‘Historical Changes in the Major Fish Resources of the Great Lakes’, in Evans, M.S. (Ed.), Toxic Contaminants and Ecosystem Health: A Great Lakes Focus, J. Wiley and Sons, New York, pp. 103–131.Google Scholar
  39. Heinz, G.H., Erdman, T.C., Haseltine, S.D., and Stafford, C.: 1985, ‘Contaminant Levels in Colonial Waterbirds from Green Bay and Lake Michigan, 1975–80’, Environ. Mon. Assessment 5, 223–236.Google Scholar
  40. Heist, B.G. and Swenson, W.A.: 1983, ‘Distribution and Abundance of Rainbow Smelt in Western Lake Superior as Determined from Acoustic Sampling’, J. Great Lakes Res. 9, 343–353.Google Scholar
  41. Hunt, G.L. Jr.: 1972, ‘Influence of Food Distribution and Human Disturbance on the Reproductive Success of Herring Gulls’, Ecology 53, 1051–1061.Google Scholar
  42. Hunt, G.L. Jr. and Hunt, M.W.: 1976, ‘Exploitation of Fluctuating Food Resources by Western Gulls’, Auk 93, 301–337.Google Scholar
  43. International Joint Commission: 1985, ‘Report of Great Lakes Water Quality Board’, International Joint Commission, Windsor, Ontario, unpublished report.Google Scholar
  44. Jaffe, R., Stemmier, E.A., Eitzer, B.D., and Hites, R.A.: 1985, ‘Anthropogenic, Polyhalogenated, Organic Compounds in Sedentary Fish from Lake Huron and Lake Superior Tributaries and mbayments’, J. Great Lakes Res. 11, 156–162.Google Scholar
  45. Kadlec, J.A.: 1976, ‘A Re-Evaluation of Mortality Rates in Adult Herring Gulls’, Bird-Banding 47, 8–12.Google Scholar
  46. Kadlec, J.A. and Drury, W.H.: 1968, ‘Structure of the New England Herring Gull Population’, Ecology 49, 644–676.Google Scholar
  47. Keith, J.A.: 1966, ‘Reproduction in a Population of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) Contaminated by DDT’, J. Appl. Ecol. 3, 57–70.Google Scholar
  48. Keith, J.A. and Gruchy, I.M.: 1972, ‘Residue Levels of Chemical Pollutants in North American Birdlife’, Proc. Int. Ornithol. Congr. XV, 437–454.Google Scholar
  49. Kozie, K.D. and Anderson, R.K.: 1991, ‘Productivity, Diet and Environmental Contaminants in Bald Eagles Nesting Near the Wisconsin Shoreline of Lake Superior’, Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 20, 41–48.Google Scholar
  50. Ludwig, J.P.: 1962, ‘A Survey of the Gull and Tern Populations in Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior’, The Jack-Pine Warbler 40, 104–119.Google Scholar
  51. Ludwig, J.P. and Tomoff, C.S.: 1966, ‘Reproductive Success and Insecticide Residues in Lake Michigan Herring Gulls’, The Jack-Pine Warbler 44, 77–85.Google Scholar
  52. Matteson, S.W.: 1979, ‘Status of Breeding Gulls and Terns on the Wisconsin Shore of Lake Superior in 1979’, Report to National Parks Service and Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, Madison, Unpublished.Google Scholar
  53. McNicholl, M.K., Struger, J., and Weseloh, D.V.: 1983, ‘Cannibalism in a Great Lakes Herring Gull colony’, Abstract of the Colonial Waterbird Group's 7th Annual Meeting, Puerto Rico, pp. 13.Google Scholar
  54. Mineau, P., Fox, G.A., Nostrom, R.J., Weseloh, D.V., Hallett, D.J., and Ellenton, J.A.: 1984, ‘Using the Herring Gull to Monitor Levels and Effects of Organochlorine Contamination in the Canadian Great Lakes’, in Nriagu, J.O. and Simmons, M.S. (Eds.), Toxic Contaminants in the Great Lakes, J. Wiley and Sons, New York, pp. 425–452.Google Scholar
  55. Mineau, P. and Weseloh, D.V.: 1981, ‘Low-Disturbance Monitoring of Herring Gull Reproductive Success on the Great Lakes’, Colonial Waterbirds 4, 138–142.Google Scholar
  56. Moccia, R.D., Fox, G.A., and Britton, A.: 1986, ‘A Quantitative Assessment of Thyroid Histopathology of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) from the Great Lakes and a Hypothesis on the Causal Role of Environmental Contaminants’, J. Wildl. Diseases 22, 60–70.Google Scholar
  57. Moore, F.R.: 1976, ‘The Dynamics of Seasonal Distribution of Great Lakes Herring Gulls’, Bird-Banding 47, 141–159.Google Scholar
  58. Niemi, G.J., Davis, T.E., Veith, G.D., and Vieux, B.: 1986, ‘Organochlorine Chemical Residues in Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls and Common Terns of Western Lake Superior’, Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 15, 313–322.Google Scholar
  59. Norstrom, R.J., Hallett, D.J., Onuska, F.I., and Comba, M.E.: 1980a, ‘Mirex and its Degredation Products in Great Lakes Herring Gulls’, Environ. Sci. Technol. 14, 860–866.Google Scholar
  60. Norstrom, R.J., Won, H.T., Van Hove Holdrinet, M., Calway, P.G., and Naftel, C.D.: 1980b, ‘Gas-Liquid Chromatographic Determination of Mirex and Photomirex in the Presence of Polychlorinated Biphenyls: an Interlaboratory Study’, J. Assoc. Off. Anal. Chem. 63, 37–42.Google Scholar
  61. O.E.C.D.: 1981, Chemical Trends in Wildlife Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, 248 pp.Google Scholar
  62. Parsons, J.: 1971, ‘Cannibalism in Herring Gulls’, Brit. Birds 64, 528–536.Google Scholar
  63. Peakall, D.B., Norstrom, R.J., Rahimtula, A.D., and Butler, R.D.: 1986, ‘Characterization of Mixed-Function Oxidase Systems of the Nestling Herring Gull and its Implications for Bioeffects Monitoring’, Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 5, 379–385.Google Scholar
  64. Pierotti, R. and Annett, C.A.: 1987, ‘Reproductive Consequences of Dietary Specialization and Switching in an Ecological Generalist’, in Kamil, A.C., Krebs, J.R., and Pulliam, H.R. (Eds.), Foraging Behavior, Plenum Publishing, New York, pp. 417–442.Google Scholar
  65. Reynolds, L.M. and Cooper, T.: 1975, ‘Analysis of Organochlorine Residues in Fish’, in Barabas, S. (Ed.), Water Quality Parameters, Amer. Soc. Test. Mat. STP. 573: 196–205.Google Scholar
  66. Rohlf, F.J. and Sokal, R.R.: 1981, Statistical Tables, W.H. Freeman and Company, San Fransisco.Google Scholar
  67. Ryder, J.P.: 1974, ‘Organochlorine and Mercury Residues in Gulls' Eggs from Western Ontario’, Can. Field-Nat. 88, 349–352.Google Scholar
  68. Ryder, J.P. and Carroll, T.R.: 1978, ‘Reproductive Success of Herring Gulls on Granite Island, Northern Lake Superior, 1975 and 1976’, Can. Field-Nat. 92, 51–54.Google Scholar
  69. Scharf, W.C., Shugart, G.W., and Chamberlain, M.L.: 1978, ‘Colonial birds nesting on manmade and natural sites in the U.S. Great Lakes’, Technical Report D-78-10, No. FWS/OBS-78/15, U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, P.O. Box 631, Vicksburg, MI 39180, 189 pp.Google Scholar
  70. Selgeby, J.H.: 1982, ‘Decline of Lake Herring Coregonus artedii in Lake Superior: An Analysis of the Wisconsin Herring Fishery’, Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 39, 554–563.Google Scholar
  71. Smith, B.R. and Tibbles, J.J.: 1980, ‘Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) in Lake Huron, Michigan, and Superior: History of Invasion and Control, 1936–78’, Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 37, 1780–1801.Google Scholar
  72. Sokal, R.R. and Rohlf, F.J.: 1981, Biometry, W.H. Freeman and Company, New York.Google Scholar
  73. Stalling, D.L., Norstrom, R.J., Smith, L.M., and Simon, M.: 1985, ‘Patterns of PCDD, PCDF, and PCB Contamination in Great Lakes Fish and Birds and Their Characterization by Principal Components Analysis’, Chemosphere 14, 627–643.Google Scholar
  74. Struger, J., Weseloh, D.V., Hallett, D.J., and Mineau, P.: 1985, ‘Organochlorine Contaminants in Herring Gull Eggs from the Detroit and Niagara Rivers and Saginaw Bay (1978–1982): Contaminant Discriminants’, J. Great Lakes Res. 11, 223–230.Google Scholar
  75. Suns, K., Hitchin, G., and Toner, D.: 1991, ‘Spatial and Temporal Trends of Organochlorine Contaminants in Spottail Shiners (Notropis hudsonius) from the Great Lakes and Their Connecting Channels (1975–1988)’, Report of Water Resources Branch, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, 97 pp.Google Scholar
  76. Swain, W.R.: 1978, ‘Chlorinated Organic Residues in Fish, Water, and Precipitation from the Vicinity of Isle Royale, Lake Superior’, J. Great Lakes Res. 4, 398–407.Google Scholar
  77. Veith, G.D., Kuehl, D.W., Puglish, F.A., Glass, G.E., and Eaton, J.G.: 1977, ‘Residues of PCB's and DDT in the Western Lake Superior Ecosystem’, Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 5, 487–499.Google Scholar
  78. Weseloh, D.V., Mineau, P., and Hallett, D.J.: 1979, ‘Organochlorine Contaminants and Trends in Reproduction in Great Lakes Herring Gulls, 1974–1978’, Trans. 44th North Am. Wildl. and National Resources Conf., Wildife Mgmt. Inst., pp. 543–557.Google Scholar
  79. Weseloh, D.V., Mineau, P., and Struger, J.: 1990, ‘Geographical Distribution of Contaminants and Productivity Measures of Herring Gulls in the Great Lakes: Lake Erie and Connecting Channels 1978/79’, Science of the Total Environment 91, 141–159.Google Scholar
  80. Wilkinson, L.: 1989, SYSTAT: The System for Statistics, SYSTAT Inc., Evanston, IL, U.S.A.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. V. Chip Weseloh
    • 1
  • Peter J. Ewins
    • 1
  • John Struger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pierre Mineau
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ross J. Norstrom
    • 3
  1. 1.Canadian Wildlife Service (Ontario Region), Environment Canada, Canada Centre for Inland WatersBurlingtonCanada
  2. 2.Inland Waters Directorate, Environment Canada, Canada Centre for Inland WatersBurlingtonCanada
  3. 3.Canadian Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Research Centre, Environment CanadaOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations