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Reproductive success of belted kingfishers on the upper Hudson River

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Abstract

Belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) are predators in many North American aquatic ecosystems; as such, they are prone to bioaccumulation of certain environmental contaminants. In 2002 and 2004, kingfisher eggs collected near the upper Hudson River in New York had elevated concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and the kingfisher population in this area was reported to be at risk because of PCB exposure. From 2007 to 2009, the authors monitored 69 kingfisher nests on the Hudson River to track both nest success and survival of individual nestlings. The study site consisted of 2 adjacent sections of the Hudson River, 1 upstream and 1 downstream of a historic PCB source. The authors compared models of nest success that differentially incorporated the following 4 variables that they deemed most likely to affect reproductive output: 1) river section (upstream vs downstream of PCB source), 2) year, 3) hatch date, and 4) abandonment by 1 parent. After ranking models according to Akaike's information criterion for small sample sizes, it was clear that parental abandonment was the most important of the factors examined. River section was not an important parameter, and overall nesting success was slightly higher in the PCB-contaminated section than in the upstream area. These findings support the conclusion that kingfisher productivity is not adversely impacted by PCB contamination in the upper Hudson River. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:1855–1863. © 2013 SETAC

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