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Potential Effects of Environmental Contaminants on Recovery of the Aplomado Falcon in South Texas

Miguel A. Mora, M. Clare Lee, J. Peter Jenny, Thomas W. Schultz, Jose L. Sericano and Nancy J. Clum
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 61, No. 4 (Oct., 1997), pp. 1288-1296
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3802128
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3802128
Page Count: 9
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Potential Effects of Environmental Contaminants on Recovery of the Aplomado Falcon in South Texas
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Abstract

Efforts to reintroduce the aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis) into its former range in the southern part of Texas began in 1977. Not until 1993, however, were a significant number (26) of fledgling aplomado falcons released. The first nesting pair of aplomado falcons was reported near the Brownsville Ship Channel during 1995. Because of a long history of pesticide use in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, during 1993-94 we investigated the accumulation of environmental contaminants in plasma of aplomado falcons released at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. We also assessed the potential contribution of typical prey species to aplomado falcon contaminant burdens. Organochlorine pesticides and PCBs were below detection limits (wet wt basis) in plasma; however, some organochlorines including 1.75 and 1.41 μg/g p,p′-DDE, and 0.49 and 1.52 μg/g total PCBs were detected in addled eggs collected in 1995 and 1996. Mercury also was detected at 1.5 and 4.1 μg/g dry weight in the addled eggs collected in 1995 and 1996. We detected DDE (range 0.02-0.25 μg/g) in carcasses of potential prey of the aplomado falcon. Trace metals also were detected in potential prey at levels which are not of concern, except for Hg, which was high in a few meadowlarks. Low levels of DDE and most trace metals in potential prey, including mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) and eastern meadowlarks (Sturnella magna), are not likely to result in adverse effects on the aplomado falcon in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. However, elevated Hg residues in meadowlarks (in a few cases) and potentially higher DDE levels in other prey species such as the great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) could result in negative effects on reproduction and survival of some aplomado falcons in south Texas.

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