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Organochlorine residues and shell characteristics of roseate tern eggs, 1981

June 16, 1983

Roseate Terns (Sterna dougallii) breed in two areas in the Western Hemisphere: in northeastern North America between Long Island, New York, and Nova Scotia, and around the Caribbean Sea from the Florida Keys and the Bahamas to the Netherlands Lesser Antilles (Bent 1921, Bond 1956, Nisbet 1980). Both populations are small, and concern recently has been expressed about their status (Nisbet 1980, Buckley and Buckley 1981). The northeastern population has decreased from a peak of about 8500 pairs in the 1940s to between 2500 and 3000 pairs in 1978-1982, and has become largely concentrated into 4 colonies (Nisbet 1980). The Caribbean population has been affected by egg collecting and other forms of human disturbance in its main stronghold in the U.S. Virgin Islands (U.S. Virgin Islands Bureau of Fish and Wildlife 1976-1979, Norton 1980, 1981). One factor which may have affected the northeastern population is chemical pollution. Hays and Risebrough (1972) reported high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and l,l-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chloro phenyl) ethylene (DDE) in 3 Roseate Tern chicks found with congenital abnormalities at Great Gull Island, New York, in 1970. High levels of PCBs were also found in chicks found dead at Bird Island, Massachusetts, in 1970 (Nisbet 1981). A close relative, the Common Tern (S. hirundo), is relatively sensitive to the effects of DDE; elevated residues of DDE in eggs are associated with eggshell-thinning (Switzer et al. 1973), reduction in the porosity of eggshells, and embryonic mortality (Fox 1976). The present paper reports the results of a survey of organochlorine residues in Roseate Terns in 1981. The main objectives of the survey were to determine the levels of organochlorine contamination in eggs of the Roseate Tern in its major colonies and to investigate whether changes in eggshell characteristics similar to those reported by Fox (1976) may have occurred in this species. A secondary objective was to determine geographic patterns of organochlorine contamination within the northeastern U.S. population of Roseate Terns and to compare them with patterns observed in Common Terns

Publication Year 1983
Title Organochlorine residues and shell characteristics of roseate tern eggs, 1981
Authors T. W. Custer, I.C.T. Nisbet, A. J. Krynitsky
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Field Ornithology
Index ID 5221877
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center