, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 514–521 | Cite as

The corticosterone stress response and mercury contamination in free-living tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor

  • Melinda D. Franceschini
  • Oksana P. Lane
  • David C. Evers
  • J. Michael Reed
  • Bart Hoskins
  • L. Michael Romero


We determined mercury concentrations in tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor, from Massachusetts and Maine with different levels of contamination. Baseline and stress-induced plasma corticosterone concentrations from adults and nestlings (Massachusetts only) were compared with mercury concentrations. In Massachusetts, adult baseline corticosterone was negatively correlated with blood mercury, but showed a nearly-significant positive correlation with feather mercury. There was a negative relationship between baseline corticosterone and blood mercury in nestlings and between baseline corticosterone and egg mercury. There was no relationship between mercury and stress-induced corticosterone in any of the groups, or with baseline corticosterone in Maine sites where mercury levels were lower. The findings suggest blood and egg mercury may be a better indicator of current condition than feather mercury. Further, mercury contamination may not alter stress-induced corticosterone concentrations in tree swallows but appears to have a significant impact on baseline circulating corticosterone.


Corticosterone Mercury Stress Tree swallows 



This project was made possible through a grant from Tufts University Institute for the Environment to MDF, and grants from the US National Science Foundation (IBN-0235044 and IOB-0542099) to LMR.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melinda D. Franceschini
    • 1
  • Oksana P. Lane
    • 2
  • David C. Evers
    • 2
  • J. Michael Reed
    • 1
  • Bart Hoskins
    • 3
  • L. Michael Romero
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  2. 2.BioDiversity Research InstituteGorhamUSA
  3. 3.US Environmental Protection AgencyNew England Regional LaboratoryNorth ChelmsfordUSA

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