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Conservation Value of Feathers. As a hammer (1886 George Bird Grinnell and Women against plume hunters) Molting demands conservation of stopover sites Feathers as indicators of ecosystem health. Feathers Assess Organochloride Pollutants in White-tailed Sea Eagles. (

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Conservation value of feathers

Conservation Value of Feathers

As a hammer (1886 George Bird Grinnell and Women against plume hunters)

Molting demands conservation of stopover sites

Feathers as indicators of ecosystem health

Feathers assess organochloride pollutants in white tailed sea eagles
Feathers Assess Organochloride Pollutants in White-tailed Sea Eagles


(Jaspers et al. 2011)

Pcbs dde bdes
PCBs, DDE, BDEs Sea Eagles

Body Feathers work well as assay tools

Conclusions Sea Eagles

  • Different concentrations of substances were affected by pattern of molt, so need to know how long a feather has been exposed to environment and preening

Pigeon feathers assess metals in urban settings
Pigeon Feathers Assess Metals in Urban Settings Sea Eagles


Adsorbed from environment (Lead, Chromium, Cadmium)

or from food (Copper, Iron, Manganese, Zinc)

(Henrique et al. 2011)

Ptilochronology Urban Sites

  • Feathers grow during day and night

  • During day as bird eat more pigment is deposited in growing feather and a dark bar results

  • During night as birds roost less pigment is deposited resulting in a lighter bar

  • Alternating light and dark bars represent a 24 hour period of feather growth—wider bar indicates better nutrition as the feather grows more in 24hours

Correlate with reproduction and survival
Correlate with Reproduction and Survival Urban Sites

Styan’s Grasshopper Warbler

(Takaki et al. 2001)

Extreme fault bars
Extreme “Fault Bars” Urban Sites

  • Low nutrition, poor habitat, indicators of environmental stress

References Urban Sites

  • Jaspers, V.L.B. et al. 2011. Body feathers as a potential new biomonitoring tool in raptors: A study on organohalogenated contaminants in different feather types and preen oil of West Greenland white-tailed eagles. Environment International 37:1349-1356.

  • Brait, C. H. H. and Filho, N. R. A. 2011. Use of feathers of feral pigeons as a technique for metal quantification and environmental monitoring. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 179:457-467.

  • Harmata, A. R. 2011. Environmental contaminants in tissues of Bald Eagles sampled in southwestern Montana, 2006-2008. Journal of Raptor Research 45:119-135.

  • Clarkson, C.E. 2011. Applicability of ptilochronology as a conservation tool in waterbird studies. Ecological Indicators 11:1707-1709.

  • Grubb, T. C. Jr. 1989. Ptilochronology: feather growth bars as indicators of nutritional status. Auk 106:314-320.