Hatching success of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) was assessed for three years in relation to chemical contamination along the Housatonic River, Berkshire County (MA, USA), in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Nest boxes were erected at five sites along the Housatonic River and its tributaries and at one reference location. Concentrations of total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were some of the highest ever reported in bird eggs. Mean concentrations at sites along the Housatonic River ranged between 32 and 101 I?g/g wet weight. A significant negative relationship was observed between concentrations of total PCBs in clutches and hatching success. A significant negative relationship was also observed between hatching success and the sum of the total dioxins and furans and the associated toxic equivalents (TEQs) for dioxins and furans. In a combined model with PCB TEQs and dioxin/furan TEQs, PCB TEQs were not significantly correlated to hatching success, whereas dioxin/furan TEQs were. Contamination of tree swallows was from local food sources. Accumulation rates of total PCBs in 12-d-old nestlings averaged between 34 and 76 I?g/d at the sites along the main stem of the Housatonic River compared to <1 I?g/d at the reference location.
Additional publication details
Exposure and effects of chemical contaminants on tree swallows nesting along the Housatonic River, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA, 1998-2000