Swallows (Hirundo rustica) collected within the right-of-way of a major Maryland highway were greater than those found in Barn Swallows nesting within a rural area. Lead concentrations in the feathers of adults from the highway colony were also greater than Lead concentrations in the carcasses and stomach contents of adult and nestling Barn those of rural adults, but concentrations in the feathers of nestlings from the two locations were similar. Activity of u-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase in red blood cells was lower in highway-nesting adults and their young than in their rural counterparts, although hemoglobin concentrations and hematocrits did not differ. The number of eggs, nestlings, and body weights of the latter at 16-18 days of age were similar in the two colonies, as were body weights of adults from the two areas. These results suggest that contamination of roadside habitats by lead from automotive emissions does not pose a serious hazard to birds that are aerial feeders.
Additional publication details
Lead concentrations and reproduction in highway-nesting barn swallows