Red-throated loons (Gavia stellata) breeding in Alaska declined 53% during 1977-1993. We compare concentrations of environmental contaminants in red-throated loons among four nesting areas in Alaska and discuss potential ramifications of exposure on reproductive success and population trends. Eggs from the four areas had similar total polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentrations, but eggs from the Arctic coastal plain had different congener profiles and greater toxic equivalents (TEQs) than eggs from elsewhere. Satellite telemetry data indicate that red-throated loons from the Arctic coastal plain in northern Alaska winter in southeast Asia, while those breeding elsewhere in Alaska winter in North America. Different wintering areas may lead to differential PCB accumulation among red-throated loon populations. For eggs from the Arctic coastal plain, TEQs were great enough to postulate PCB-associated reproductive effects in piscivores. The correlation between migration patterns and PCB profiles suggests that red-throated loons breeding in northern Alaska are exposed to PCBs while on their Asian wintering grounds.
Additional publication details
Red-throated loons (Gavia stellata) breeding in Alaska, USA, are exposed to PCBs while on their Asian wintering grounds