Body feathers as a potential new biomonitoring tool in raptors : a study on organohalogenated contaminants in different feather types and preen oil of West Greenland white-tailed eagles (**Haliaeetus albicilla**)
Soler Rodriguez, Francisco
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences. Pharmacy
Environment international. - Oxford
, p. 1349-1356
University of Antwerp
We investigated the variation in concentrations and profiles of various classes of organohalogenated compounds (OHCs) in different feather types, muscle tissue and preen oil from 15 white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) carcasses from Greenland. The influence of moult patterns and potential external contamination onto the feather surface was examined, while the present study is also the first to investigate the use of body feathers for OHC monitoring. Concentrations of sum polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in feathers from white tailed eagles ranged from 2.3 ng/g in a primary wing feather to 4200 ng/g in body feathers. Using 300 mg of body feathers, almost 50 different OHCs could be quantified and median concentrations in body feathers were 10 fold higher than concentrations in tail feathers (rectrices) or primary wing feathers. Body feathers could be very useful for biomonitoring taking into account their easy sampling, short preparation time and high levels of OHCs. In addition, the effects of confounding variables such as feather size, moult and age are also minimised using body feathers. Correlations with concentrations in muscle tissue and preen oil were high and significant for all feather types (r ranging from 0.81 to 0.87 for sum PCBs). Significant differences in concentrations and profiles of OHCs were found between different primary feathers, indicating that the accumulation of OHCs in feathers varies over the moulting period (maximum three years). Washing of feathers with an organic solvent (acetone) resulted in a significant decrease in the measured concentrations of OHCs in feathers. However, our results indicated that preen oil is probably not the only contributor to the external contamination that can be removed by washing with acetone. Possibly dust and other particles may be of importance and may be sticking to the preened feathers. Rectrices washed only with water showed high and significant correlations with concentrations in muscle and preen oil as well. Washing with acetone therefore does not seem to be of great influence when relating to internal tissue concentrations. We recommend washing feathers only with distilled water in order to remove dirt and dust particles before analysis.