Environmental monitoring and assessment

Lead and cadmium contaminations in feathers of heron and egret chicks.

PMID 24407960


In birds, concentrations of heavy metal contaminants were associated with their diet and environmental quality. This study presents concentrations of lead and cadmium in feathers and the relationship between concentrations in the feather and stomach content of three species of heron and egret chicks. Cadmium concentrations were higher in the Little Egret (geomean 0.75 μg/g dry weight) and Black-crowned Night Heron (geomean 0.88 μg/g dry weight) chicks than in Grey Heron chicks (geomean 0.48 μg/g dry weight). Lead and cadmium concentrations had significant correlations between feathers and stomach contents of heron and egret chicks. The mean lead and cadmium concentrations in feathers were within the background levels for wild birds. Heron and egret species forage around breeding colony (4-7 km). Lead and cadmium concentrations in heron and egret chicks were moderately associated with those of prey concentrations. These results suggest that contaminant concentrations such as lead and cadmium in feathers of heron and egret chicks can reflect local heavy metal contaminations and serve as a great biological indicator for monitoring heavy metal contamination. In addition, the feathers can be a routine monitoring tool over time and space without harming the wild birds.