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Organochlorine residues and mortality of herons

June 16, 2010

Since 1966, 72 herons found dead or moribund in the field have been analyzed for organochlorine chemicals. In addition, 36 herons were obtained through systematic collections, and carcasses were analyzed to determine sublethal exposure to organochlorines. Brains of birds found dead or moribund were analyzed to determine whether the birds had died of organochlorine poisoning. Residues of DDE were found most frequently (96 of 105 carcasses analyzed), PCBs were second (detected in 90 carcasses), and dieldrin and TDE (detected in 37 and 35 carcasses, respectively) were about equal as third and fourth most frequent. Endrin, mirex, toxaphene, and HCB were found least often (8, 9, 9, and 9 carcasses, respectively). At least one organochlorine was found in each carcass, except for six heron chicks found dead in a Maryland heronry. DDE and PCBs were present in highest concentrations; they exceeded 100 ppm in two birds each. Organochlorine concentrations were almost always higher in adult herons than in immature birds. All birds that had hazardous or lethal concentrations in the brain were adults, and most were great blue herons (Ardea herodias). Dieldrin was the chemical most often considered responsible for death. Herons died of suspected DDT and dieldrin poisoning years after the chemicals were banned in the United States. More than 20 percent of the herons found dead or moribund had lethal or hazardous concentrations of organochlorines in the brain.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1981
Title Organochlorine residues and mortality of herons
Authors Harry M. Ohlendorf, Douglas M. Swineford, Louis N. Locke
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Pesticides Monitoring Journal
Series Number
Index ID 5221661
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center