Heavy metals and metalloids in egg contents and eggshells of passerine birds from Arizona.
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Concentrations of inorganic elements were determined in eggs of passerine birds including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) from four regions in Arizona. The main aim of the study was to determine the distribution of metals in egg contents and eggshells, with emphasis on the deposition of Sr in eggshells. Seventy eggs of 11 passerine species were collected at four nesting locations during 2000. Aluminum, Ba, Cr, Cu, Mn, Se, Sr, and Zn, were detected primarily in egg contents of all bird species. Arsenic, Ni, Pb, and V were detected primarily in eggshells. A proportion of most inorganic elements accumulated in the eggshell. Concentrations of Ba, Cu, Mn, Se, Sr, and Zn in egg contents and As, Ba, Cu, and V in eggshells of yellow-breasted chats (Icteria virens) were similar among locations. However, concentrations of Mn, Ni, Sr, and Zn in eggshells were significant different among locations. Except for Cu, Mn, Se, and Zn, concentrations of inorganic elements were 2-35 times greater in eggshells than in eggs. Most concentrations of metals and metalloids in eggs and eggshells of all the bird species were below levels known to affect reproduction or that have other deleterious effects. However, I found somewhat elevated concentrations of Sr in eggshells (highest MEAN=1505 microg/g dw, n=3) of yellow-breasted chats and willow flycatchers, and in egg contents of yellow warblers (Dendroica petechia) and song sparrows (Melospiza melodia). Whether current observed concentrations of Sr in eggshells are affecting nesting birds in Arizona remains to be determined. Strontium and other metals could be associated with lower hatching success in some areas. This study shows that a proportion of many inorganic elements accumulates in the eggshell and that the potential effects on the proper structure and functioning of the eggshell should not be ignored.
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