Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) have been recorded nesting in Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA and other areas of the Chihuahuan Desert since the early 1900s. From 1993 to 1996, peregrine falcon productivity rates were very low and coincided with periods of low rainfall. However, low productivity also was suspected to be caused by environmental contaminants. To evaluate potential impacts of contaminants on peregrine falcon populations, likely avian and bat prey species were collected during 1994 and 1997 breeding seasons in selected regions of western Texas, primarily in Big Bend National Park. Tissues of three peregrine falcons found injured or dead and feathers of one live fledgling also were analyzed. Overall, mean concentrations of DDE [1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene], a metabolite of DDT [1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane], were low in all prey species except for northern rough-winged swallows (Stelgidopteryx serripennis, mean = 5.1 microg/g ww). Concentrations of mercury and selenium were elevated in some species, up to 2.5 microg/g dw, and 15 microg/g dw, respectively, which upon consumption could seriously affect reproduction of top predators. DDE levels near 5 microg/g ww were detected in carcass of one peregrine falcon found dead but the cause of death was unknown. Mercury, selenium, and DDE to some extent, may be contributing to low reproductive rates of peregrine falcons in the Big Bend region.
Additional publication details
Environmental contaminants in prey and tissues of the peregrine falcon in the Big Bend Region, Texas, USA.