Arsenic residues in predatory birds from an area of Britain with naturally and anthropogenically elevated arsenic levels

B V Erry, M R Macnair, A A Meharg, R F Shore, I Newton

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Birds of prey forage over large areas and so might be expected to accumulate contaminants which are elevated but heterogeneously distributed in the general environment. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that arsenic levels in raptors from a region with elevated environmental arsenic concentrations were higher than those in birds from an uncontaminated part of Britain. Arsenic concentrations in the liver, kidney and muscle of kestrels, Falco tinnunculus, sparrowhawks, Accipiter nisus, and barn owls, Tyto alba, from south-west (SW) England, an area with naturally and anthropogenically (through mining) elevated environmental arsenic concentrations, were compared with those in birds from SW Scotland, where no such geochemical anomaly exists. Arsenic residues in kestrels from SW England were approximately three times greater than those in birds from SW Scotland for the three tissue types analysed. This was not the case for the other species in which arsenic residues were similar in birds from both regions. It is suggested that differences between species in both diet and arsenic metabolism could explain why kestrels have elevated arsenic tissue burdens in response to general environmental contamination but sparrowhawks and barn owls do not. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-95
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1999


  • arsenic
  • raptors
  • food chain transfer
  • kidneys
  • livers
  • muscle
  • small mammals
  • heavy-metals
  • pollution
  • damage
  • owl

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