Organochlorine chemical residues in herring gulls, ring-billed gulls, and common terns of western lake superior

  • Gerald J. Niemi
  • Thomas E. Davis
  • Gilman D. Veith
  • Barbara Vieux


Residues of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDE, DDT, and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) were analyzed for three age classes (e.g., pre-fledge muscle and blood, and post-fledge muscle) of the herring gull, ring-billed gull, and common tern for samples collected in the western end of Lake Superior in 1977. Concentrations of PCBs were highest and HCB concentrations were lowest of the chemicals analyzed in all four sample types and for all three species. Without exception, concentrations of all residues increased from the pre-fledge to the post-fledge stage despite this being a period of dilution. Residue concentrations of PCBs, DDE, and DDT in the eggs were higher (P < .01) for the herring gull than for the ring-billed gull and common tern, but concentrations in the latter two species were similar. All residue concentrations in the pre-fledge samples of the common tern and herring gull were similar (P > 0.05); both species had higher concentrations of PCBs and DDT than the ring-billed gull. The herring gull had higher residue concentrations of HCB and DDE than the ring-billed gull, but the common tern did not differ from the ring-billed gull for HCB or DDE. Residue concentrations among the three species were similar in the post-fledge samples, however, there was an increasing pattern of residue concentrations in the common tern relative to the gull species. Principal component analysis revealed that residue concentrations of PCBs, DDE, and DDT were highly correlated (r > .76) in all three sample types and the first principal component could express a high proportion of the variation (>65%) in residue concentrations. In contrast, HCB residues were more independent and correlated (r > .53) with the second principal component. There was little correspondence between blood residue samples and the pre-fledge muscle samples. Residue concentration differences among the species are probably related to different life histories. The concentrations are below those that affect reproduction in the gull species, but potential impairment cannot be excluded for the common tern.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson DW, Hickey JJ, Risebrough RW, Hughes DF, Christensen RE (1969) Significance of chlorinated hydrocarbon residues to breeding pelicans and cormorants. Can Field Nat 83:91–112Google Scholar
  2. Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (1984) Colonial bird program St. Louis River Estuary 1984. Report to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Duluth, MNGoogle Scholar
  3. Blus LJ, Gish CD, Belisle AA, Prouty RM (1972a) Logarithmic relationship of DDE residues to eggshell thinning. Nature 235:376–377Google Scholar
  4. — (1972b) Further analysis of the logarithmic relationship of DDE residues to eggshell thinning. Nature 240:164–166Google Scholar
  5. Cooke AS (1973) Shell thinning in avian eggs by environmental pollutants. Environ Pollut 4:85–152Google Scholar
  6. Custer TW, Erwin RM, Stafford C (1983) Organochlorine residues in common tern eggs from nine Atlantic Coast colonies, 1980. Colonial Waterbirds 6:197–204Google Scholar
  7. Cuthbert FJ, McKearnon J, Davis TE (1984) Status of common terns nesting at the Duluth Port Terminal 1982–83. Loon 56:20–24Google Scholar
  8. Davis TE, Niemi GJ (1980) Land breeding populations in the western tip of Lake Superior. Loon 52:3–14Google Scholar
  9. Dieter MP, Perry MC, Mulhern BM (1976) Lead and PCBs in canvasback ducks: relationship between enzyme levels and residues in blood. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 5:1–13Google Scholar
  10. Fox GA (1976) Eggshell quality: its ecological and physiological significance in a DDE-contaminated common tern population. Wilson Bull 88:459–477Google Scholar
  11. Frank R, Holdrinet MV, Rapley WA (1975) Residue of organochlorine compounds and mercury in birds' eggs from the Niagara Peninsula, Ontario. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 3:205–218Google Scholar
  12. Gilman AP, Fox GA, Peakall DB, Teeple SM, Carroll TR, Haymes GT (1977) Reproductive parameters and egg contaminant levels of Great Lakes herring gulls. J Wildl Manage 41:458–468Google Scholar
  13. Glass GE, Poldoski JE (1974) Interstitial water components and exchange across the sediment interface of western Lake Superior. Proc XIX Congress, International Assoc Limnol, Winnipeg, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  14. Godfrey WE (1976) The birds of Canada. National Museum of Canada. Bulletin No 203Google Scholar
  15. Goodermote D (1984) A survey of nesting herring gulls along the north shore of Lake Superior from Knife River to the Pigeon River, during the period 1977–1984. Report to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul, MNGoogle Scholar
  16. Hays H, Risebrough RW (1972) Pollutant concentrations in abnormal young terns from Long Island Sound. Auk 89:19–35Google Scholar
  17. Hickey JJ, Anderson DW (1968) Chlorinated hydrocarbons and eggshell changes in raptorial and fish-eating birds. Science 162:271–273Google Scholar
  18. Keith JA (1966) Reproduction in a population of herring gulls (Larus argentatus) contaminated by DDT. J Appl Ecol 3:57–69Google Scholar
  19. Kress SW, Weinstein EH, Nisbet ICT (1983) The status of tern populations in northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. Colonial Waterbirds 6:84–106Google Scholar
  20. Lemmetyinen R, Rantamaki P, Uusitalo R (1977) DDT and PCB residues in the arctic tern, the osprey, and the hooded crow nesting in the archipelago of southwestern Finland. Lintumies 12:108–117 (in Finnish with English summary)Google Scholar
  21. Lemmetyinen R, Rantamaki P (1980) DDT and PCB residues in the arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) nesting in the archipelago of southwestern Finland. Ann Zool Fenn 17:141–146Google Scholar
  22. Martin AC, Zim HS, Nelson AL (1951) American wildlife and plants. Dover Publications Inc, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Morris RD, Hunter RA, McElman JF (1976) Factors affecting the reproductive success of common tern (Sterna hirundo) colonies on the lower Great Lakes during the summer of 1972. Can J Zool 54:1850–1862Google Scholar
  24. Ohlendorf HM, Klaas EE, Kaiser TE (1979) Environmental pollutants and eggshell thickness: anhingas and wading birds in the eastern United States. Fish and Wildlife Service, Special scientific report. Wildlife No 216, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  25. Peakall DB, Lincer JL, Risebrough RW, Pritchard JB, Kinter WB (1973) DDE-induced eggshell thinning: structural and physiological effects in three species. Comp Gen Pharmacol 4:305–313Google Scholar
  26. Ryder JP (1974) Organochlorine and mercury residues in gulls' eggs from western Ontario. Can Field Nat 88:349–352Google Scholar
  27. Särkkä J, Hattula M, Janatuinen J, Paasivirta J, Palokangas R (1978) Chlorinated hydrocarbons and mercury in birds of Lake Paijanne, Finland, 1972–74. Pestic Monit J 12:26–35Google Scholar
  28. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1981) Biometry. WH Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Stickel LF (1973) Pesticide residues in birds and mammals. In Edwards CA (ed) Environmental pollution by pesticides. Plenum Press, New York, pp 254–312Google Scholar
  30. Switzer B, Lewin V, Wolfe FH (1971) Shell thickness, DDE levels in eggs, and reproductive success in common terns (Sterna hirundo) in Alberta. Can J Zool 49:69–73Google Scholar
  31. — (1973) DDE and reproductive success in some Alberta common terns. Can J Zool 51:1081–1086Google Scholar
  32. Tatsuoka, MM (1971) Multivariate analysis: techniques for educational and psychological research. J Wiley Sons Inc, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. US Environmental Protection Agency (1977) Duluth-Superior, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Report on the degree of pollution of bottom sediments, June 29–30, 1976. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region V, Great Lakes Surveillance Section, Chicago, Illinois. 17 ppGoogle Scholar
  34. Veith GD (1975) Baseline concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls and DDT in Lake Michigan fish, 1971. Pest Monit J 9:21–29Google Scholar
  35. Veith GD, Kuehl DW, Puglisi FA, Glass GE, Eaton JE (1977) Residues of PCBs and DDT in the western Lake Superior ecosystem. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 5:487–499Google Scholar
  36. Veith GD, Kuehl DW, Leonard EN, Puglisi FA, Lemke AE (1979) Polychlorinated biphenyls and other organic chemical residues in fish from major watersheds of the United States, 1976. Pest Monit J 13:1–11Google Scholar
  37. Vermeer K, Reynolds LM (1970) Organochlorine residues in aquatic birds in the Canadian prairie provinces. Can Field Nat 84:117–130Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerald J. Niemi
    • 1
  • Thomas E. Davis
    • 2
  • Gilman D. Veith
    • 3
  • Barbara Vieux
    • 4
  1. 1.Natural Resources Research InstituteUniversity of MinnesotaDuluth
  2. 2.Arrowhead Regional Development CommissionDuluth
  3. 3.Environmental Research Laboratory-DuluthU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyDuluth
  4. 4.Dow ChemicalAnalytical ServicesMidland

Personalised recommendations