American kestrels (Falco sparverius) were fed diets containing methylmercury chloride (MeHg) at 0, 0.6, 1.7, 2.8, 3.9, or 5.0 ??g/g (dry wt) starting approximately eight weeks before the onset of egg laying. Dietary treatment was terminated after 12 to 14 weeks, and unhatched eggs were collected for Hg analysis. Blood samples were collected after four weeks of treatment and the termination of the study (i.e., 12-14 weeks of treatment). Clutch size decreased at dietary concentrations above 2.8 ??g/g. The average total mercury concentration in clutches of eggs and in the second egg laid (i.e., egg B) increased linearly with dietary concentration. Mercury concentrations in egg B were approximately 25% lower than in the first egg laid and similar in concentration to the third egg laid. Mercury concentrations in whole blood and plasma also increased linearly with dietary concentration. Total Hg concentrations in June blood samples were lower than those in April, despite 8 to 10 weeks of additional dietary exposure to MeHg in the diet. This is likely because of excretion of Hg into growing flight feathers beginning shortly after the start of egg production. The strongest relationships between Hg concentrations in blood and eggs occurred when we used blood samples collected in April before egg laying and feather molt. ?? 2010 SETAC.
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Mercury in the blood and eggs of American kestrels fed methylmercury chloride