Environmental contaminants in Peregrine Falcons in Alaska, USA

Updated 2001-05-07

Contaminants were examined for trends over time, spatial variation based on disparate breeding areas, and relationships with measures of productivity. Most organochlorines and metals declined over time. Mercury was the only contaminant with possibly increasing concentrations in eggs. Egg and feather samples collected in 2000 will provide more information on mercury trends and effects. This study embodies 20 years of data on environmental contaminants in peregrine falcons nesting in Alaska.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project

Time frame

Project time span
1979 -
Data collection
not specified
Data processing
not specified
Data reporting
not specified

Contact information

Contact person
Angela C. Matz
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 101-12th Ave., Box 19, Room 110 Fairbanks, AK 99701 USA
+1 907 456 0442
+1 907 456 0208
Other project contacts
Ted Swem U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 101-12th Ave., Box 19, Room 110 Fairbanks, AK 99701 USA Robert E. Ambrose U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 101-12th Ave., Box 19, Room 110 Fairbanks, AK 99701 USA

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Biological effects
Heavy metals
Other metals/elements
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Terrestrial birds
Additional information or further specification of types of data / information collected, species / tissues / organs sampled, etc.

Eggs were sampled for persistent organochlorines and metals. Nestling feathers were sampled for mercury and methyl mercury.


Regions studied
Alaska, North Slope

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
Data centres
Terrestrial TDC
References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
Ambrose, R.E., A. Matz, T. Swem, and P. Bente. 2000. Environmental contaminants in American and arctic peregrine falcon eggs in Alaska, 1979-95. Ecological Services Fairbanks, AK, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Technical Report NAES-TR-00-02. 67 pp.
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?

Methods & Procedures

Procedures and methodology used for, e.g., sampling and sample storage, sample pretreatment, extraction and analysis, including which laboratories are involved, references to methods employed, etc.

Unhatched, addled eggs were collected when nests were visited to count and band nestlings (no eggs were collected in 1981, 1985, and 1992). Fresh eggs were collected in 1984, 1989, 1995, and 2000 during occupancy surveys when adults were incubating. Whole eggs were wrapped in foil, cushioned for transport, and refrigerated as much as possible prior to removal of contents. Contents were removed by scoring the eggshell at the equator and placing contents in a chemically-clean jar (I-Chem or equivalent). Eggshell thickness (shell plus membranes) was reported as an average of three measurements taken on the equator of each egg with a micrometer graduated in units of 0.01 mm. Eggshell thickness measurements came only from shells of whole eggs, collected either as fresh or addled eggs; no measurements of eggshell fragments were included. If membranes were missing, 0.069 mm was added (Court et al. 1990). To assess percent of shell thinning, we compared thickness to a pre-1947 thickness of 0.360 ± 0.007 mm (95% C.L.) for 53 peregrine eggs from arctic and subarctic Alaska (Anderson and Hickey 1972). Feathers analyzed for mercury were the distal 1.5 cm of Secondary No. 4 from one side of the largest nestling, clipped using stainless steel scissors, and stored in a paper or plastic envelope. In eggs, organochlorines were measured from 1979-95 and metals were measured from 1988-95. Analytes measured and limits of detection (LODs) are summarized in Ambrose et al. (2000). Total PCBs were calculated as an Aroclor sum, and mercury was measured as elemental mercury. Eggs collected prior to 1988 were analyzed at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Eggs collected in 1988-95 were analyzed at Texas A & M, College Station, TX, USA, except for eggs collected in 1989 and 1991 which were analyzed at Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, USA. Detailed analytical methods are available from the Patuxent Analytical Control Facility (PACF), Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Laurel, MD, USA. Feathers were collected in 1989-91 and analyzed for total mercury at PACF or contract laboratories. Feathers were also collected in 2000 and analyzed for mercury and methyl mercury at Texas A & M, College Station, TX, USA .

QA/QC Information (what QA/QC procedures are implemented, laboratories involvment in QA/QC activities, model verification/validation routines, etc.)

Quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) procedures followed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contractual standards. Acceptance criteria were spike recoveries of 80-120%, Standard Reference Material value within + 3 SD of the certified value, relative percent difference of duplicate samples within + 20%, and analysis of matrix blanks. Additionally, 10% of positive samples were confirmed by Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry. Analytes that failed to meet QA/QC acceptance criteria were excluded from data summaries and analysis.

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
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