Metal levels in mourning doves from South Carolina: Potential hazards to doves and hunters

Joanna Burger, Robert A. Kennamer, I. Lehr Brisbin, Michael Gochfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


Most game birds are found in lower trophic levels, but since such birds are harvested and consumed by humans, there is a particular need to assess their contaminant levels. In this paper, we report concentrations of mercury, lead, cadmium, selenium, manganese, and chromium in the breast feathers, liver, and muscle of mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) collected at a partially drawn-down, contaminated reactor-cooling reservoir (Par Pond) on the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site in South Carolina and at nearby agricultural fields managed as dove hunting areas. We test the hypothesis that the levels in doves are not harmful to either dove populations or humans. We also tested the simultaneous effects of collection location, year (1992, 1993), and dove age-class (hatch-year vs after hatch- year) on heavy metal and selenium levels. For all three tissues, mercury levels were nondetectable at all locations. Lead was highest in tissues from agricultural fields with prior histories of dove hunting activities. Doves at those fields were likely ingesting lead shot to a greater degree than at the recently drawn-down reservoir which was closed to public access and hunting. For other metals, Par Pond doves had equally high or higher tissue levels. For all metals, levels in doves from South Carolina were generally within the lower range of those reported in the literature, suggesting that these metals were likely to pose no health problems to these doves. Except for lead and selenium, metal levels in dove muscle that we observed were well below reference metal doses established for human intake. Lead and selenium, at the levels described here, would only be a problem if a child (not an adult) ate 120 g of dove meat every day of the year. Thus, we conclude that meat from these doves, if consumed by hunters, would not pose a risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-186
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1997


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

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