Reproductive ecology of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) with high levels of polychlorinated biphenyl contamination

John P. Mccarty, Anne L. Secord

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) breeding along the Hudson River forage extensively on PCB-contaminated insects the emerge from the river. We studied the reproductive ecology and behavior of tree swallows breeding at several sites along the Hudson River. Related work has shown that PCB levels in both eggs and chicks were among the highest ever reported in this species, with concentrations comparable to those found in aquatic organisms in the Hudson River. In 1994, reproductive success at PCB-contaminated sites was significantly impaired relative to other sites in New York. Reduced reproductive success was largely due to high levels of nest abandonment during incubation and reduced hatchability of eggs. In 1995, reproductive output was normal, but higher than expected rates of abandonment and supernormal clutches persisted. Growth and development of nestlings was not significantly impaired. Given the levels of contamination in this population, the success of most Hudson River tree swallows reinforces the importance of understanding interspecific differences in the effects of contaminants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1433-1439
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Hudson River
  • Passerine
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Reproductive success

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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