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Determination of heavy metals in pigeon feathers

Received 2013 Feb 13; Accepted 2013 Jul 13. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.

Abstract The aim of this study was to determine the possibility of using feathers of blue tit nestlings to assess the level of endogenous accumulation of lead.

For this purpose we conducted an experiment with lead application to randomly chosen nestlings from eight randomly drawn broods. Five days after the exposure, feathers of lead-treated nestlings had significantly higher lead concentrations than control nestlings.

This result suggests that feathers can be used as reliable non-destructive bioindicators to assess the level of heavy metals originating from contaminated food, which is of great significance for comparative studies on ecological consequences of pollution. Nestlings, Feathers, Lead poisoning, Passerines The natural environment has been gradually contaminated by various forms of pollution, mainly as a consequence of urbanization and the increasing use of fuels by households, vehicles and industry Swaileh and Sansur 2006.

A serious group of pollutants are heavy metals that pose a threat to all living organisms, with lead being especially considered as highly toxic Roux and Marra 2007. The use of living organisms to monitor heavy metal pollution provides more promising results than chemical and physical analysis.

  • Studies on lead contamination in birds conducted in industrial areas showed a definite influence of environmental pollution on the levels of metals accumulated by birds Dmowski 1993 ; Adout et al;
  • A serious group of pollutants are heavy metals that pose a threat to all living organisms, with lead being especially considered as highly toxic Roux and Marra 2007;
  • Results and Discussion This study found a clear case of an endogenous pathway for lead deposition in feathers of nestling blue tits.

This results from the fact that we obtain accurate data of bioavailability and biotransference of contaminants as well as observe some physiological and behavioral symptoms of induced toxicity Swaileh and Sansur 2006 ; Roux and Marra 2007. Birds can be exposed to heavy metals both externally, by physical contact, and internally, by consumption of contaminated food Roux and Marra 2007. Therefore, nestlings of altricial birds, like blue tits Cyanistes caeruleus, seem to be an appropriate model for a study leading to discrimination between these two ways in which feathers can become contaminated Furness 1993.

  1. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.
  2. The use of living organisms to monitor heavy metal pollution provides more promising results than chemical and physical analysis.
  3. The lead acetate solution used was deliberately diluted in deionized water to a non-poisonous level Eisler 1988.

Due to the fact that the blue tit readily uses man-made nest-boxes, breeding populations can be easily established to monitor and study them in an area of interest, where it is possible to identify and evaluate local heavy metal pollution Janssens et al. Heavy metal concentrations can be assessed in birds by using various organs liver, kidneytissues muscle, bone, fateggs, feathers and excrements Burger 1993 ; Dauwe et al.

An undisputable advantage of using feathers in such analyses is that they can be easily collected and, if necessary, repeatedly sampled without affecting the health and condition of studied individuals Adout et al. During the period of growth, feathers are connected with blood-vessels and metals supplied with food may be built into feather keratine structures.

Therefore, the endogenous accumulation reflects nestling physiological condition at the moment of feathering Burger 1993.

By contrast, exogenous contamination results from adsorption of heavy metals on the feather surface. Some authors also pointed out the fact that bird species, especially waterfowl and seabirds, may secrete metals through salt gland and embrocate them on their feathers Dmowski 1999. Birds were used to assess the amounts of lead especially in the aquatic environment, due to the widespread use of lead ammunition for hunting on waterfowl or lead weights used for fishing Scheuhammer and Norris 1996.

Studies on lead contamination in birds conducted in industrial areas determination of heavy metals in pigeon feathers a definite influence of environmental pollution on the levels of metals accumulated by birds Dmowski 1993 ; Adout et al.

It should be emphasized that most studies were based on the trace element analyses of various tissues or internal organs, which inherently involved the necessity of sacrificing the studied individuals and only a few studies used exclusively feathers Janiga et al.

The objectives of this study were to test whether increased levels of lead in the diet of blue tit nestlings would result in higher concentrations of this metal in their feathers and to determine if feather analysis could be used as a non-invasive method to monitor lead levels in the environment.

In particular, we intended to demonstrate the applicability of this method in supporting state environmental monitoring programmes. Tree stands of the site, covering c. This area is characterized by reduced anthropogenic influence and limited car traffic.

During the 2008 breeding season, we conducted an experiment on 8 randomly drawn broods of blue tit. Regular inspections of nest-boxes allowed recording of the hatch dates of nestlings in order to set the proper day of conducting the experiment. The lead acetate solution used was deliberately diluted in deionized water to a non-poisonous level Eisler 1988. The remaining nestlings in each brood were treated as a control group, not receiving any dose.

  • Tree stands of the site, covering c;
  • The lead acetate solution used was deliberately diluted in deionized water to a non-poisonous level Eisler 1988;
  • It should be emphasized that most studies were based on the trace element analyses of various tissues or internal organs, which inherently involved the necessity of sacrificing the studied individuals and only a few studies used exclusively feathers Janiga et al;
  • To test effects of the experimental treatment v;
  • Certified reference material mussel tissue from the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements Geel, Belgium were used to ensure quality and accuracy of conducted analysis.

From both groups of nestlings, we collected secondary flight-feather samples on the 14th—15th day of their life. Although samples were stored and analysed in the laboratory individually for each nestling, the final comparison between experimentally treated and control nestlings was done on data pooled within these two categories of nestlings in particular broods. Feathers taken to analysis were washed in deionized water to remove externally adsorbed heavy metals.

  1. Heavy metal concentrations can be assessed in birds by using various organs liver, kidney , tissues muscle, bone, fat , eggs, feathers and excrements Burger 1993 ; Dauwe et al.
  2. The objectives of this study were to test whether increased levels of lead in the diet of blue tit nestlings would result in higher concentrations of this metal in their feathers and to determine if feather analysis could be used as a non-invasive method to monitor lead levels in the environment.
  3. Nestlings, Feathers, Lead poisoning, Passerines The natural environment has been gradually contaminated by various forms of pollution, mainly as a consequence of urbanization and the increasing use of fuels by households, vehicles and industry Swaileh and Sansur 2006. The remaining nestlings in each brood were treated as a control group, not receiving any dose.
  4. From both groups of nestlings, we collected secondary flight-feather samples on the 14th—15th day of their life.

Subsequently, the feathers were digested in a 4: We measured lead concentrations in the samples using an atomic absorption spectrophotometer Spectr AA-300 with non-flame atomization in GTA96 graphite furnace tube atomizer. The limit of detection for lead was 0. All samples were analysed in batches, which included determination of calibration curves and use of blind samples. Certified reference material mussel tissue from the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements Geel, Belgium were used to ensure quality and accuracy of conducted analysis.

Avian Feathers as Bioindicators of the Exposure to Heavy Metal Contamination of Food

The result for the certified reference material were within acceptable margins. The unit observations were a per-brood mean lead concentration in feathers of treated nestlings and an analogous mean for control nestlings, resulting in obtaining a pair of data points for each brood. The data were ln-transformed in order to satisfy assumptions of normality and to stabilize variance.

To test effects of the experimental treatment v.

  • The use of living organisms to monitor heavy metal pollution provides more promising results than chemical and physical analysis;
  • We measured lead concentrations in the samples using an atomic absorption spectrophotometer Spectr AA-300 with non-flame atomization in GTA96 graphite furnace tube atomizer.

Results and Discussion This study found a clear case of an endogenous pathway for lead deposition in feathers of nestling blue tits.

Mean concentration of lead in feathers of lead acetate supplied nestlings was c.

No detrimental effects on morphology, physiology or behavior were recorded in treated nestlings which resulted from the assumption that using such a dose of lead acetate solution would not contribute to toxicity.