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Open-File Report 2014–1251

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Contaminants Division

Mercury in Birds of San Francisco Bay-Delta, California: Trophic Pathways, Bioaccumulation, and Ecotoxicological Risk to Avian Reproduction

By Joshua T. Ackerman, Collin A. Eagles-Smith, Gary Heinz, Susan E. De La Cruz, John Y. Takekawa, A. Keith Miles, Terry L. Adelsbach, Mark P. Herzog, Jill D. Bluso-Demers, Scott A. Demers, Garth Herring, David J. Hoffman, C. Alex Hartman, James J. Willacker, Thomas H. Suchanek, Steve E. Schwarzbach, and Thomas C. Maurer

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (8.8 MB)Executive Summary

San Francisco Bay Estuary in northern California has a legacy of mercury contamination, which could reduce the health and reproductive success of waterbirds in the estuary. The goal of this study was to use an integrated field and laboratory approach to evaluate the risks of mercury exposure to birds in the estuary. We examined mercury bioaccumulation, and other contaminants of concern, in five waterbird species that depend heavily on San Francisco Bay Estuary for foraging and breeding habitat: American avocets (Recurvirostra americana), black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus), Forster’s terns (Sterna forsteri), Caspian terns (Hydroprogne caspia), and surf scoters (Melanitta perspicillata). These species have different foraging habitats and diets that represent three distinct foraging guilds within the estuary’s food web. In this report, we provide an integrated synthesis of the primary findings from this study and results are synthesized from 54 peer-reviewed publications generated to date with other unpublished results.

First posted December 11, 2014

For additional information, contact:
Director, Western Ecological Research Center
U.S. Geological Survey
3020 State University Drive East
Sacramento, California 95819

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Suggested citation:

Ackerman, J.T., Eagles-Smith, C.A., Heinz, G.H., De La Cruz, S.E., Takekawa, J.Y., Miles, A.K., Adelsbach, T.L., Herzog, M.P., Bluso-Demers, J.D., Demers, S.A., Herring, G., Hoffman, D.J., Hartman, C.A., Willacker, J.J., Suchanek, T.H., Schwarzbach, S.E., and Maurer, T.C., 2014, Mercury in birds of San Francisco Bay-Delta, California—Trophic pathways, bioaccumulation, and ecotoxicological risk to avian reproduction: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014-1251, 202 p.,

ISSN 2331-1258 (online)



Executive Summary




Laboratory Methods

Results and Discussion

Conclusions and Management Implications

Unpublished Data Referenced

References Cited

Appendix 1. Project’s Product List: Citations

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