Metals in Feathers of Sooty Tern, White Tern, Gray-Backed Tern, and Brown Noddy from Islands in the North Pacific
- Cite this article as:
- Burger, J., Shukla, T., Dixon, C. et al. Environ Monit Assess (2001) 71: 71. doi:10.1023/A:1011695829296
Levels of heavy metals are usuallyhigher in adult than young birds because they eatlarger, more contaminated prey, or because they havehad longer to accumulate metals in their tissues.Further, levels of contaminants are usually less inbirds nesting on remote, offshore islands than inbirds breeding closer to mainland areas that areurbanized and industrialized. We examined the featherlevels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese,mercury, and selenium in adult sooty terns (Sterna fuscata), gray-backed terns (Sterna lunata), and brown noddy (Anous stolidus, and adult and young white terns (Gygis alba, fromMidway Atoll, and in adult and young sooty terns andadult brown noddy from Manana Island, Hawaii (chicksof other terns were not available). We tested andrejected the null hypotheses that metal levels are notsignificantly different among species, ages, andlocations. Despite their small size, adult white ternshad the highest levels of lead, arsenic and tin. Brownnoddies had the highest levels of cadmium, chromium,manganese, and selenium. Sooty and white terns had thehighest levels of mercury. Sooty tern adults hadsignificantly higher levels of cadmium, mercury, andselenium than young, while young had significantlyhigher levels of arsenic and manganese. White ternadults had significantly higher levels of selenium andtin than young, while young had higher levels ofcadmium and mercury than adults. Except for mercury,there were significant inter-location differenceswithin species in all heavy metals. Contrary toexpectation, where the differences were great, metalsgenerally were higher in the feathers of terns andnoddies from Midway than from Manana.