Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 14, pp 13906–13915 | Cite as

Mercury in the feathers of bird scavengers from two areas of Patagonia (Argentina) under the influence of different anthropogenic activities: a preliminary study

  • Alessandro Di Marzio
  • Pilar Gómez-Ramírez
  • Facundo Barbar
  • Sergio Agustín Lambertucci
  • Antonio Juan García-Fernández
  • Emma Martínez-LópezEmail author
Research Article


Mercury (Hg) is a global pollutant that bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in food chains and is associated with adverse effects in both humans and wildlife. We used feather samples from bird scavengers to evaluate Hg concentrations in two different areas of Northern Patagonia. Hg concentrations were analyzed in feathers obtained from turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus), and southern crested caracaras (Caracara plancus) from the two areas of Northern Patagonia (Argentina): Bariloche and El Valle. Hg was detected in all the samples analyzed, but the concentrations can be considered low for the three species in both sampling areas. The mean concentration of Hg in Bariloche was 0.22 ± 0.16 mg/kg dry weight (d.w.) in black vulture, 0.13 ± 0.06 mg/kg d.w. in turkey vulture, and 0.13 ± 0.09 mg/kg d.w. in southern crested caracara; in El Valle, the mean concentration of Hg was 1.02 ± 0.89 mg/kg d.w. in black vulture, 0.53 ± 0.82 mg/kg d.w. in turkey vulture, and 0.54 ± 0.74 mg/kg d.w. in southern crested caracara. Hg concentrations in feathers were explained by the sampling area but not by the species. The concentrations of Hg contamination were comparable to those obtained in other studies of terrestrial raptors and aquatic bioindicator raptors. The species of the present study occur throughout much of North and South America. Thus, they may be appropriate bioindicators across the species’ range, which is particularly useful as a surrogate, especially in distribution areas shared with endangered scavengers such as the California condor (Gymnopsys californianus) and the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus).


Heavy metals Non-invasive sampling Cathartidae Caracara plancus Northern Patagonia Mercury 



Dr. Martínez-López was granted with a mobility grant from BSCH (Banco Santander Central Hispano) to obtain the feathers. We thank PICT (BID, Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo) 0725/2014 for the financial support for the field trips. We also thank Fundación Séneca (CARM, Comunidad Autonoma de la Region de Murcia) with the MASCA (Monitorización con Animales Silvestres de la Contaminación Ambiental) 2014 Project (19481/PI/14), and ESF (European Science Foundation) (EURAPMON, European Raptor Monitoring Network).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alessandro Di Marzio
    • 1
  • Pilar Gómez-Ramírez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Facundo Barbar
    • 3
  • Sergio Agustín Lambertucci
    • 3
  • Antonio Juan García-Fernández
    • 1
    • 2
  • Emma Martínez-López
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Area of Toxicology, Department of Health Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of MurciaMurciaSpain
  2. 2.Laboratory of Toxicology, Biomedical Research Institute of Murcia (IMIB-Arrixaca)University of MurciaMurciaSpain
  3. 3.Grupo de Biología de la Conservación, Laboratorio EcotonoINIBIOMA (CONICET-Universidad Nacional del Comahue)BarilocheArgentina

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