Possible chemical causes of skeletal deformities in grey heron nestlings (Ardea cinerea) in North Nottinghamshire, UK

Helen M Thompson, Alwyn Fernandes, Martin Rose, Shaun White, Adrian Blackburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dead and deformed grey heron (Ardea cinerea) chicks were reported at a large heronry in North Nottinghamshire, UK between 1996 (when systematic visits to the heronry started) and 2002. Many of the birds died for no obvious reason but deformities in others included multiple fractures of the tarsus and tibia and metacarpal bones (angel wings). This study aimed to investigate possible chemical causes of these deformities. Analysis of eggs and nestling tissue for a range of metals showed no levels of concern and no significant differences between unaffected and deformed birds. However, the levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) detected in affected heron nestlings in 2002 and in eggs taken from nests in 2003 were sufficiently high to suggest that this may be the underlying cause of the deformities, possibly due to effects on deposition of calcium in bone. Further work is underway to identify where the parent birds of the affected nestlings are feeding and identify the possible source of the pollution.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)400-409
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Cite this