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Keywords:

  • Hatching success;
  • Dioxins;
  • 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin;
  • Tree swallows;
  • Woonasquatucket River

Abstract

Concentrations of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) in tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) nesting along the Woonasquatucket River northwest of Providence (RI, USA) in 2000 and 2001 were some of the highest ever reported in avian tissues. Mean concentrations in eggs ranged from 300 to > 1,000 pg/g wet weight at the two most contaminated ponds, Allendale and Lyman. Mean egg concentrations at Greystone, the upstream reference pond, were 12 and 29 pg/g. Positive accumulation rates and concentrations in diet samples from 12-day-old nestlings indicated that the contamination was accumulated locally. Concentrations in diet of between 71 and 219 pg/g wet weight were more than 6 and 18 times higher than concentrations considered safe for birds (10–12 pg/g). Hatching success was negatively associated with concentration of TCDD in eggs. Only about half the eggs hatched at Allendale compared with >77% at Greystone. The national average for hatching success in successful nests is 85%. No other contaminants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls and mercury, were present in any sample at concentrations known to affect avian reproduction. Three bioindicators, half-peak coefficient of geometric variation, ethoxyresorufin-O-dealkylase activity, and brain asymmetry were assessed relative to TCDD contamination.