Previous studies documented poor productivity of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the lower Columbia River (LCR), USA, and elevated p,p???-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and furans in eagle eggs. From 1994 to 1995, we collected partially incubated eggs at 19 of 43 occupied territories along the LCR and compared productivity and egg contaminants to values obtained in the mid-1980s. We found higher productivity at new nesting sites along the river, yet productivity at 23 older breeding territories remained low and was not different (p = 0.713) between studies. Eggshell thickness at older territories had not improved (p = 0.404), and eggshells averaged 11% thinner than shells measured before dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane use. Decreases in DDE (p = 0.022) and total PCBs (p = 0.0004) in eggs from older breeding areas occurred between study periods. Productivity was not correlated to contaminants, but DDE, PCBs, and dioxin-like chemicals exceeded estimated no-effect values. Some dioxin-like contaminants in eggs were correlated to nest location, with highest concentrations occurring toward the river's mouth where productivity was lowest. Although total productivity increased due to the success of new nesting pairs in the region, egg contaminants remain high enough to impair reproduction at older territories and, over time, may alter productivity of new pairs nesting near the river's mouth. ?? 2005 SETAC.
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Changes in productivity and contaminants in bald eagles nesting along the lower Columbia River, USA