While breeding tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have been used as biomonitors for freshwater sites, we report the first use of this species to assess contaminant bioaccumulation from estuarine breeding grounds into these aerial insectivores. Eggs and nestlings were collected from nest boxes in a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated estuary, the New Bedford Harbor Superfund site (NBH, Massachusetts, USA), and a reference salt marsh, Fox Hill (FH, Jamestown, Rhode Island, USA). Sediments, eggs, and nestlings were compared on a ng g−1 wet weight basis for total PCBs and DDE (1,1-bis-(4-chlorophenyl)-2,2-dichloroethene), metabolite of DDT (1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis-(p-chlorophenyl)ethane). NBH samples contained high concentrations of PCBs compared to FH for sediment (36,500 and 0.2), eggs (11,200 and 323), and nestlings (16,800 and 26). PCB homologue patterns linked tree swallow contamination to NBH sediment. NBH samples were also contaminated with DDE compared to FH for sediment (207 and 0.9) and nestlings (235 and 30) but not for eggs (526 and 488), suggesting both NBH and nonbreeding ground sources for DDE. The relationships between sediment and tree swallow egg and nestling PCBs were similar to those reported for freshwater sites. Like some highly contaminated freshwater sites, NBH PCB bioaccumulation had little apparent effect on reproductive success.
Additional publication details
PCBs and DDE in tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) eggs and nestlings from an estuarine PCB superfund site, New Bedford Harbor, MA, U.S.A.