Although there has been much speculation in the literature that methylmercury (MeHg) exposure can reduce songbird fitness, little is known about its effects on migration. Migrating songbirds typically make multiple flights, stopping to refuel for short periods between flights. How refueling at MeHg-contaminated stopover sites would contribute to MeHg bioaccumulation, and how such exposure could affect subsequent flight performance during migration has not been determined. In a dosing experiment we show that migratory yellow-rumped warblers (Setophaga coronata) rapidly accumulate dietary MeHg in blood, brain and muscle, liver and kidneys in just 1–2 weeks. We found that exposure to a 0.5 ppm diet did not affect vertical takeoff performance, but in 2-h wind tunnel flights, MeHg-treated warblers had a greater median number of strikes (landing or losing control) in the first 30 min, longer strike duration, and shorter flight duration. The number of strikes in the first 30 min of 0.5 ppm MeHg-exposed warblers was related to mercury concentration in blood in a sigmoid, dose-dependent fashion. Hyperphagic migratory songbirds may potentially bioaccumulate MeHg rapidly, which can lead to decreased migratory endurance flight performance.
Environmental Pollution – Elsevier
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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