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Occurrence of anthropogenic litter in nestling Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor)

Stephanie Walsh, Jennifer Haughton, Lee Bellan, Isabelle Gosselin, Amy Festarini, David Lee, Marilyne Stuart


While undertaking a study of the effects of strontium-90 on Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) near Chalk River, Ontario, we noticed the presence of anthropogenic litter (pieces of metal, glass, and plastic, and paper, plastic, and foil wrappers, >1 mm in size) in the nestlings. Although combustible litter (pieces of plastic and wrappers) were not quantified before the nestlings were incinerated in 2014 and 2015, gizzards were dissected in 2016. Litter (>1 mm diameter) was found in 30% of the 74 nestlings examined. This material is most likely provided to nestlings, along with food (insects) and natural grit (sand, stones, and mollusc shells), which we also found, by parent birds; however, it could lead to internal injuries and/or harmful substances being absorbed by the young birds.


Tree Swallow; Tachycineta bicolor; nestling; grit; environmental impact; anthropogenic litter; metal; glass; plastic; paper

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