In 1977 and 1978, we studied red-breasted mergansers Mergus serrator nesting on islands in northwestern Lake Michigan to determine whether environmental contaminants were having effects on reproduction. Seventeen contaminants were measured in randomly chosen eggs from 206 nests under study. Using a variety of statistical approaches, we looked for effects of individual contaminants and combinations of contaminants on reproductive measurements such as nest desertion, failure of eggs to hatch, death of newly hatched ducklings, percentage hatching success, number of ducklings leaving the nest and eggshell thickness. We also looked for relationships between the levels of some contaminants in blood samples of 39 incubating females and reproductive success. A small degree of eggshell thinning was attributed to DDE and a few other statistical tests were significant, but no contaminant or combination of contaminants we measured seemed to have a pronounced effect on the aspects of reproduction we followed.
Additional publication details
Relationships of environmental contaminants to reproductive success in red-breasted mergansers (Mergus serrator) from Lake Michigan