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Keywords:

  • Aleutian Islands;
  • Bald eagle;
  • Contaminants;
  • Diets;
  • Productivity

Abstract

We studied productivity, diets, and environmental contaminants in nesting bald eagles from the western Aleutian Islands, Alaska, USA, during the summers of 1993 and 1994. Productivity on Adak, Tanaga, and Amchitka Islands ranged from 0.88 to 1.24 young produced per occupied site and was comparable to that of healthy populations in the lower 48 United States. However, productivity on Kiska Island was depressed, averaging 0.67 young per occupied site. The lower reproductive success on Kiska was associated with elevated levels of dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene and other organochlorine pesticides. Many of the organochlorine pesticides were elevated in bald eagle eggs from the four islands, but concentrations of these contaminants and Hg were significantly higher in eggs from Kiska Island than in eggs from the other islands. In contrast, polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations were higher in eggs from Adak, Amchitka, and Kiska (where military facilities have been installed) than in those from Tanaga (which has had little military activity). The most likely source of these contaminants in bald eagles was from their diets, which were variable spatially and temporally. Fish made up most (56%) of the eagles' diet on Adak and Tanaga Islands, followed by birds (25%) and mammals (19%). In contrast, birds comprised the majority (60%) of bald eagle diets on Amchitka and Kiska Islands, followed by mammals (30%) and fish (10%). The high proportion of seabirds in the diet of eagles from Kiska Island could be the major source of organochlorine and Hg contamination. Elevated concentrations of organochlorines in bald eagle eggs from the Aleutian Archipelago was surprising, because of the distance to agricultural areas. The results indicate that these contaminants can be transported long distances and affect wildlife populations in remote and pristine areas. We also discuss potential sources and transport mechanisms of these contaminants to the Aleutian Islands.