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Pollution of estuaries affects bird populations indirectly through changes in habitat and food supply. The multi-factor pollution of Chesapeake Bay has resulted in diminution of submerged aquatic plants and consequent change in food habits of the canvasback duck. Although dredge-spoil operations can improve wildlife habitat, they often result in its demise. Pollution of estuaries also affects birds directly, through chemical toxication, which may result in outright mortality or in reproductive impairment. Lead from industrial sources and roadways enters the estuaries and is accumulated in tissues of birds. Lead pellets deposited in estuaries as a result of hunting are consumed by ducks with sufficient frequency .to result m large annual die-offs from lead poisoning. Fish in certain areas, usually near industrial sources, may contain levels of mercury high enough to be hazardous to birds that consume them. Other heavy metals are present in estuarine birds, but their significance is poorly known. Oil exerts lethal or sublethal effects on birds by oiling their feathers, oiling eggs and young by contaminated parents, and by ingestion of oil-contaminated food. Organochlorine chemicals, of both agricultural and industrial origin, travel through the food chains and reach harmful levels in susceptible species of birds in certain estuarine ecosystems. Both outright mortality and reproductive impairment have occurred.
Additional Publication Details
Impact of estuarine pollution on birds
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water Planning and Standards