We collected 136 fresh and unhatched eggs from bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests and assessed productivity on eight islands in the Aleutian archipelago, 2000 to 2002. Egg contents were analyzed for a broad spectrum of organochlorine (OC) contaminants, mercury (Hg), and stable isotopes of carbon (??13C) and nitrogen (??15N). Concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (??PCBs), p,p???- dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), and Hg in bald eagle eggs were elevated throughout the archipelago, but the patterns of distribution differed among the various contaminants. Total PCBs were highest in areas of past military activities on Adak and Amchitka Islands, indicating local point sources of these compounds. Concentrations of DDE and Hg were higher on Amchitka Island, which was subjected to much military activity during World War II and the middle of the 20th century. Concentrations of ??PCBs also were elevated on islands with little history of military activity (e.g., Amlia, Tanaga, Buldir), suggesting non-point sources of PCBs in addition to point sources. Concentrations of DDE and Hg were highest in eagle eggs from the most western Aleutian Islands (e.g., Buldir, Kiska) and decreased eastward along the Aleutian chain. This east-to-west increase suggested a Eurasian source of contamination, possibly through global transport and atmospheric distillation and/or from migratory seabirds. Eggshell thickness and productivity of bald eagles were normal and indicative of healthy populations because concentrations of most contaminants were below threshold levels for effects on reproduction. Contrary to our predictions, contaminant concentrations were not correlated with stable isotopes of carbon (??13C) or nitrogen (??15N) in eggs. These latter findings indicate that contaminant concentrations were influenced more by point sources and geographic location than trophic status of eagles among the different islands. ?? 2007 SETAC.
Additional publication details
Environmental contaminants in bald eagle eggs from the Aleutian archipelago