Concentrations and distribution of 210Pb in bird feathers and its potential for tracing age and flight times

Sara Fraixedas*, Alba Riera, Irene Alorda-Montiel, Javier Quesada, Valentí Rodellas*, Jordi Garcia-Orellana

*Autor correspondiente de este trabajo

Producción científica: Contribución a una revistaArtículoInvestigaciónrevisión exhaustiva

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Bird feathers have been widely used as environmental indicators, providing key information on environmental pollution. However, there is little available information on the adsorption of natural radioactivity in bird feathers and consequently, its impact on the field of movement ecology is not yet known. This study investigates the concentration and distribution of 210Pb in wing- and tail-feathers of different bird species with contrasting migratory strategies, and discusses its potential use as a tracer of age and flight times. Adsorption of 210Pb in bird feathers is directly related to the interaction of feathers with air, therefore it is hypothesised that the presence of this radionuclide is proportional to the length of flight times, and is asymmetrically distributed in flight feathers. Consequently, a significant difference is expected between 210Pb concentrations in feathers of long-distance migrants when compared to sedentary species. For this purpose, a total of 45 samples from eight individuals of three bird species with distinct migratory strategies were analysed: a highly aerial and long-distance migratory species (Common swift Apus apus), and two largely sedentary species widely distributed across Europe (Great tit Parus major and Tawny owl Strix aluco). Novel findings show that the content of 210Pb in bird feathers of adult migratory birds is much higher than in sedentary birds or juvenile individuals, demonstrating this naturally occurring radionuclide can provide information about the contact time between feathers and air. Additionally, 210Pb adsorption was not evenly distributed in bird feathers. The findings provide a new method to trace age and flight time of birds using 210Pb in feathers, complementing conventional techniques in bird migration studies.
Idioma originalInglés
Número de artículo107397
Número de páginas8
PublicaciónJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
EstadoPublicada - abr 2024

Palabras clave

  • Environmental pollution; Lead-210; Migratory strategy; Moult; Natural radionuclides; Primary feathers


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