Adult tree swallow survival on the polychlorinated biphenyl–contaminated Hudson River, New York, USA, between 2006 and 2010



The upper Hudson River basin in east central New York, USA, is highly contaminated, primarily with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Reduced adult survival has been documented in tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) at a similarly PCB-contaminated river system in western Massachusetts. The purpose of the present study was to assess whether adult survival of tree swallows was likewise affected in the Hudson River basin. Between 2006 and 2010, a total of 521 female tree swallows were banded, of which 148 were retrapped at least once. The authors used Program MARK and an information theoretic approach to test the hypothesis that PCB contamination reduced annual survival of female tree swallows. The model that best described the processes that generated the capture history data included covariate effects of year and female plumage coloration on survival but not PCB/river. Annual survival rates of brown-plumaged females (mostly one year old) were generally lower (mean phi = 0.39) than those of blue-plumaged females (mean phi = 0.50, one year or older). Poor early spring weather in 2007 was associated with reduced survival in both plumage-color groups compared to later years. Models with the effects of PCB exposure on survival (all ΔAICc values >5.0) received little support. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012; 31: 1788–1792. © 2012 SETAC