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Element Patterns in Feathers of Nestling Black-Crowned Night-Herons, Nycticorax nycticorax L., from Four Colonies in Delaware, Maryland, and Minnesota


The pattern of elements in nestling black-crowned night-heron feathers from a rural Minnesota colony differed from colonies in industrialized regions of Maryland and Delaware. Except for chromium, however, the differences did not reflect the elements associated with waters and sediments of the Maryland and Delaware colonies. Therefore, elements in water and sediment do not necessarily bioaccumulate in night-heron feathers in relation to potential exposure. Although trace element patterns in feathers indicated differences among geographical locations, they did not separate all locations well and their usefulness as an indicator of natal colony location may be limited.

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We thank Paul M. Dummer, Bruce A. Eichhorst, Stephanie R. Schmidt and Jan E. Yacabucci for assistance with field collections; David B. Carter and the State of Delaware for providing financial support for portions of the Maryland and Delaware study; Margaret Anderson for allowing us to work on Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota; and Christine M. Custer, Brian Ickes, and Wayne Thogmartin for comments on the manuscript. The Minnesota study was funded through On-Refuge Contaminants Investigations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Correspondence to Thomas W. Custer.

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Custer, T.W., Golden, N.H. & Rattner, B.A. Element Patterns in Feathers of Nestling Black-Crowned Night-Herons, Nycticorax nycticorax L., from Four Colonies in Delaware, Maryland, and Minnesota. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 81, 147–151 (2008).

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  • Elements
  • Feathers
  • Metals
  • Black-crowned night-heron