Thirty-three ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) that were found dead or moribund in the Eastern United States between 1964 and 1973 were necropsied. The brains and carcasses of 26 of these birds were analyzed for organochlorines. The livers of 18 and the kidneys of 7 were analyzed for selected metals. Most adults were recovered in April and May and most immatures were recovered in August through October. The adult sex ratio was highly unbalanced in favor of females. Major causes of mortality were impact injuries, emaciation, shooting, and respiratory infections. Of special interest were two birds with malignant tumors and one with steatitis. Many birds had undergone marked weight losses resulting in mobilization and redistribution of organochlorine residues. Organochlorines were detected in the birds at the following percentages: DDE l00%, PCB 96%, DDD 92%, dieldrin 88%, chlordanes (including nonachlors) 82%, DDT 65%, and heptachlor epoxide 38%. Organochlorine levels tended to be higher in adults than in immatures. One adult from South Carolina had a potentially dangerous level of dieldrin in its brain, which might have contributed to its death. Immature ospreys from Maryland had extremely elevated levels of copper in their livers compared with immatures from other areas and all adults. One immature from Maryland had an elevated level of arsenic in its liver, which might have contributed to its death. One adult from Florida that had died of impact injuries had potentially dangerous levels of mercury in both liver and kidney and slightly elevated levels of cadmium in these tissues. Additional birds appeared to have been exposed to contamination of the environment by arsenic and mercury. The levels of chromium, zinc, and lead in livers appeared normal.
Additional publication details
Residues of environmental pollutants and necropsy data for eastern United States ospreys, 1964-1973