High concentrations of boron and arsenic have been associated with irrigation drain water and aquatic plants consumed by waterfowl. Both compounds affect the central nervous sytem and cause generalized physiological distress in mammals and waterfowl. We examined sublethal efefcts of boron and arsenic on the behavior of developing mallard ducklings (Anas Platyrhnchos). Day-old ducklings received an untreated diet (control) or a diet containing 100, 400, or 1,600 ppm boron, added as boric acid, or 30, 100, or 300 ppm arsenic, added as sodium aresenate. Activity schedules and behavior durations were analyzed for effects at the various treatment levels. Both boron and arsenic at the highest levels had significant effects on the activity schedules of developing ducklings, including increased time at rest and under the provided heat lamp. We also observed decreases in the amount of time treated ducklings spent in alert behaviors and in the water in comparison to control ducklings. High levels of boron (1,600 ppm) increased feeding time overall but did not increase the amount of food consumed. Arsenic had no effect on feeding behavior. There were no differences found in the durations of behaviors as a result of treatment. These findings, in combination with reported effects on the growth and physiology of ducklings under identical treatments, suggest that reported concentrations of these compounds in aquatic plants in the Central Valley of California could adversly affect normal duckling development and survival.
Additional publication details
Effects of dietary boron and arsenic on the behavior of mallard ducklings