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Accession Number 5004580

Title The effects of dietary methyl mercury exposure on American kestrels (Falco


Project Description Mercury is a pollutant of serious concern: it is highly toxic to wildlife, it has a global distribution in

the atmosphere and its aerial deposition to wildlife habitat is increasing. Several Federal agencies

and state governments place very high priority on the development of criteria of environmental

pollution that will be protective for wildlife. Relevant toxicological studies are needed to develop

those criteria. Concern is greatest for methyl mercury because of its very high toxicity and its

propensity for bioaccumulation in food webs. Much of the evaluation of risk for methyl mercury in

the environment has focused on piscivorous birds or other wildlife from aquatic habitats and there

is very little information on terrestrial wildlife and flesh-eating birds (raptors) in particular. There are

only a few studies on raptors where exposure has been controlled, and none that measured the

effects of mercury exposure on reproduction. Most existing risk assessments and criteria for

harmful exposure to mercury in birds has been based studies of mallards, which are mostly

herbivorous. This project will use the American kestrel, a small falcon found throughout the United

States, to describe the relationship between dietary exposure to methyl mercury and its effects on

important measures of reproductive success in a carnivorous bird. The American kestrel (Falco

sparverius) has a long history of use in contaminant studies because they are easily maintained in

captivity, readily bioaccumulate organic contaminants, and are closely related to several species

of birds that are or were once endangered because of environmental contaminants. The goals of

this project include: (i) locating the lethal dose of dietary exposure to methyl mercury and

describing the signs of toxicity, (ii) establishing the dose response for several measures of

reproduction in kestrels exposed to dietary methyl mercury and (iii) provide data on methyl

mercury absorption and metabolism in the tissues of kestrels to evaluate the parameters for a

physiologically based toxicokinetic (PBTK) model of methyl mercury distribution in kestrels.

Keywords american kestrel, lethality, methyl mercury, pbtk model, raptors, reproductive impairment, tissue


Principal B. F John, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: JOHN_B_FRENCH@USGS.GOV;


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