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Mercury and Cause of Death in Great White Herons

Marilyn G. Spalding, Robin D. Bjork, George V. N. Powell and Stephen F. Sundlof
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 58, No. 4 (Oct., 1994), pp. 735-739
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3809688
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3809688
Page Count: 5
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Mercury and Cause of Death in Great White Herons
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Abstract

Mercury contamination is suspected to adversely affect wading birds in southern Florida. To determine the magnitude of contamination associated with cause of death we followed 3 adult and 19 juvenile radio-tagged great white herons (Ardea herodias occidentalis), recovered them soon after death, and determined liver mercury content and cause of death. Birds that died from acute causes had less (P < 0.001) mercury in their livers (geometric x̄ [GM] = 1.77 ppm wet mass [wm], range 0.6-4.0 ppm, n = 9) than did those that died of chronic, often multiple, diseases (GM = 9.76 ppm, range 2.9-59.4 ppm, n = 13). Juvenile herons that migrated to mainland Florida accumulated more (P = 0.009) mercury in their livers than those that did not migrate. Kidney disease and gout were present in birds that died with >25 ppm wm liver mercury. Although detrimental to the health of wading birds, mercury contamination is presumably more detrimental to their reproductive efforts; therefore, an understanding of its ill effects is important in the management of these birds.

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