• Sterna antillarum;
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls;
  • Exposure assessment;
  • Bird;
  • Endangered species


Risk of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure and effects were assessed for a colony of federally endangered interior least terns (Sterna antillarum) nesting on the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NM, USA). The colony feeds from an area on the Refuge (Hunter Marsh/Oxbow Complex) wherein fish with elevated concentrations of total PCBs have been documented. Concentrations of total PCBs in whole fish averaged 0.94 mg/kg with a maximum concentration of 2.77 mg/kg, wet weight. Estimated daily PCB intake rates by adult birds throughout their 180-d breeding season ranged from <0.01 mg/kg/d to 0.98 mg/kg/d, yielding hazard quotients that ranged from 0.01 to 21.68. Polychlorinated biphenyls pose a moderate risk to the colony of interior least terns that breed at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, but the exposure rate is not likely to threaten their overall breeding success.