Wildlife Ecotoxicology

Volume 3 of the series Emerging Topics in Ecotoxicology pp 45-91


Swallows as a Sentinel Species for Contaminant Exposure and Effect Studies

  • Christine M. CusterAffiliated withUS Geological Survey, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center Email author 

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Tree swallows are an important model species to study the effects of contaminants in wild bird populations and have been used extensively in studies across North America. The advantages of swallows compared to other avian species are detailed. Three case histories are provided where swallows have been successfully used in Natural Resource Damage and Ecological Risk Assessments. The final two sections of this chapter are for individuals who want more in-depth information and include a summary of the chemical classes for which there are swallow data, including effect levels when known. Information provided in this section can be used to put exposure to most classes of contaminants into context with other sites across North America. Finally, commonly used endpoints, ranging from population-level down to cellular and genetic endpoints, are discussed including considerations and pitfalls, and when further work is needed to more fully understand the role of environmental and biological variation in interpreting these endpoints.