Biomonitoring of heavy metals in the pacific basin using avian feathers

Joanna Burger, Michael Gochfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


We used avian feathers to biomonitor heavy‐metal distribution in several areas in the Pacific Basin including Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, China, Johnston Atoll, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. This paper is a preliminary synthesis of data gathered by the Pacific Basin Biomonitoring Project. We examined levels of mercury, lead, cadmium, selenium, chromium, and manganese. For sooty terns Sterna fuscata and brown noddy Anous stolidus mercury levels were lower in the Pacific than in Puerto Rico in the Atlantic, but this was reversed for lead and cadmium. Adult birds had higher metal levels in their feathers than did young birds of the same species from the same area. Cadmium levels were higher in terrestrial species; lead, chromium, and manganese were highest in coastal species; and mercury and selenium were highest in marine species. Mercury levels were lowest in forest species, intermediate in species that eat insects and small vertebrates, and highest in species that eat intermediate to large fish. Lead levels were highest in species feeding in industrialized estuaries of Hong Kong.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1233-1239
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Biomonitoring
  • Birds
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Heavy metals
  • Lead
  • Manganese
  • Mercury
  • Pacific Basin
  • Pacific Rim
  • Selenium

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