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Environmental Mercury Tied to Increasing Songbird Losses

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

By now you're probably well aware that environmental mercury has contaminated so much seafood that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains an ongoing "do not eat" list for at-risk populations.

The mercury, which is a potent neurotoxin, among a plenitude of other adverse bodily effects, doesn't stop at seafood, however. Mercury is extremely persistent once in the air, water, and soil; levels gradually increase over time, as it accumulates.

In addition to seafood, mercury is now found at alarming levels in many other species. It's traveling up the food chain quickly and, even at sub-lethal doses, is threatening the future of songbirds, shorebirds, bats, and more.

Songbirds at Risk from Mercury Pollution

Biologists have been studying the effects of mercury exposure on fish-eating birds for decades, but it's become apparent that even songbirds are at severe risk.

Forest birds may eat insects that come from rivers (such as mayflies) or insects that eat river insects (such as spiders). As a result, some songbirds, including Caroline wrens and red-eyed vireos, have higher levels of mercury than shorebirds like kingfishers.1     


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