We collected eggs in nests, hatchlings and eggs with advanced embryos on the ground, and prefledgling young of Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at three nesting colonies in Washington and Idaho. Intact fish were also collected on the ground at the Idaho colony. The Ft. Lewis colony near Puget Sound in Washington and the Lake Chatcolet colony in northern Idaho were located near areas extensively polluted with heavy metals from minning or smelting activities. The Hanford Reservation colony near Richland, Washington was located some distance from point sources of heavy metal pollution. Heavy metals in heron samples were generally low and were all below concentrations known to induce mortality or adversely affect reproductive success. The elevated copper in one of three prefledglings from Ft. Lewis paralleled that found in an occasional nestling of several species of birds in other studies; the significance of this relationship is unclear. Breeding herons apparently fed near their colonies in areas removed from the sites of heaviest contamination, but birds in the Lake Chatcolet colony were preying on fish containing as much as 6 mu-g/g lead.
Additional publication details
Reproduction, mortality, and heavy metal concentrations in great blue herons from three colonies in Washington and Idaho