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Effects of egg oiling on larid productivity and population dynamics

January 1, 1984

Small quantities of petroleum may adhere to the plumage, feet, or nest materials of breeding birds and be transferred to their eggs during incubation. In this study, oil was applied to naturally incubated Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) and Herring Gull (L. argentatus) eggs, and its effects on reproductive success were assessed. Embryo survival was inversely proportional to the quantity of petroleum applied to eggshell surfaces. Dose responses, however, were dependent on embryonic age at the time of treatment. Eggs of either species, treated with 10-20 μl of No. 2 fuel oil 4-8 days after laying, experienced significant reductions in hatching success. Embryos oiled past the midpoint of the 28-day incubation period were insensitive to as much as 100 μl of petroleum. Fuel oil weathered outdoors for several weeks was as toxic as fresh oil to larid embryos. Productivity estimates obtained following various oil treatments indicated that only under severe conditions (e.g. large doses of petroleum contaminating young embryos) could egg oiling have a significant impact upon populations of the Herring Gull and species with similar life-history characteristics. Species that are more sensitive to oil, however, those having lower reproductive potentials and higher postfledging mortality rates or those subject to other stresses, may be more adversely affected by oil pollution.

Publication Year 1984
Title Effects of egg oiling on larid productivity and population dynamics
Authors S.J. Lewis, R.A. Malecki
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Auk
Index ID 5221941
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center