, 19:153 | Cite as

Wintering area DDE source to migratory white-faced ibis revealed by satellite telemetry and prey sampling

  • Michael A. YatesEmail author
  • Mark R. Fuller
  • Charles J. Henny
  • William S. Seegar
  • Jaqueline Garcia


Locations of contaminant exposure for nesting migratory species are difficult to fully understand because of possible additional sources encountered during migration or on the wintering grounds. A portion of the migratory white-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi) nesting at Carson Lake, Nevada continues to be exposed to dichloro-diphenyldichloro-ethylene (DDE) with no change, which is unusual, observed in egg concentrations between 1985 and 2000. About 45–63% of the earliest nesting segment shows reduced reproductive success correlated with elevated egg concentrations of >4 μg/g wet weight (ww). Local prey (primarily earthworms) near nests contained little DDE so we tracked the migration and wintering movements of 20 adult males during 2000–2004 to determine the possible source. At various wintering sites, we found a correlation (r 2 = 0.518, P = 0.0125, N = 11) between DDE in earthworm composites and DDE in blood plasma of white-faced ibis wintering there, although the plasma was collected on their breeding grounds soon after arrival. The main source of DDE was wintering areas in the Mexicali Valley of Baja California Norte, Mexico, and probably the adjacent Imperial Valley, California, USA. This unusual continuing DDE problem for white-faced ibis is associated with: the long-term persistence in soil of DDE; the earthworms’ ability to bioconcentrate DDE from soil; the proclivity of white-faced ibis to feed on earthworms in agricultural fields; the species’s extreme sensitivity to DDE in their eggs; and perhaps its life history strategy of being a “capital breeder”. We suggest surveying and sampling white-faced ibis eggs at nesting colonies, especially at Carson Lake, to monitor the continuing influence of DDE.


DDE White-faced ibis Earthworms North America Migration Satellite telemetry 



Primary funding was provided by the Department of Defense’s Legacy Resource Management Program. Linda Schueck and Branden Johnson of the USGS and Jim Dayton, Blake Henke, and Jack Cibor of Earthspan provided invaluable assistance in many ways. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) provided funding for some chemical analyses. The Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS), and the Nevada Department of Wildlife provided considerable resources, time and capture expertise. We wish especially to recognize Bill Henry of the former, and Larry Neel, Gary Herron, Pete Bradley, and Jenni Jeffers of the latter. Eduardo Santana and Rodrigo Esparza assisted with the critical task of collecting invertebrates and recording other avian species associated with the ibis in Mexico. Mary Gustafson of the Bird Banding Laboratory (USGS) graciously accommodated our request for the PTT/body weight ratio under our auxiliary marking permit. Capture and processing expertise was also generously provided by Ali Chaney and Jennifer Newmark of the Nevada Natural Heritage Program, and by Bob Goodman and Brian McDonald. Eric Kelchlin kindly shared his expertise on the species during the planning stage. We thank Susan Earnst, Miguel Mora, and two reviewers for useful suggestions to improve our manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael A. Yates
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mark R. Fuller
    • 2
  • Charles J. Henny
    • 3
  • William S. Seegar
    • 4
  • Jaqueline Garcia
    • 5
  1. 1.Raptor Research Center at Boise State UniversityMindenUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science CenterBoiseUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science CenterCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.Department of ArmyEdgewood Research Development and Engineering CenterAberdeen Proving GroundUSA
  5. 5.Centro de Investigacion en Alimentacion y Desarrollo A.C.GuaymasMexico

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