Soil-invertebrate feeding birds can be exposed to high doses of toxic metals through their diet. Recently, we have shown that nestling rooks Corvus frugilegus from several rookeries in Poland have a cadmium (Cd) tissue level diagnostic for acute contamination as well as an elevated level of lead (Pb). To explain the potential pathway of bioaccumulation of 11 essential and non-essential elements, including two metals of primary concern (Cd and Pb), in target tissues of these nestlings, we analyzed the relationships between the dietary characteristics of stomach content (mass of digesta, number of cereal grains, plant and animal items, and grit particles) and concentrations of these elements determined in the liver, kidneys, lung, muscles and bones. Our analysis showed in total 17 (8 negative and 9 positive) statistically significant relationships between the five analyzed dietary characteristics of stomach content and concentrations of metals in the liver, kidneys, muscles and bone. We found a significant positive relationship between the number of animal food items and Cd-level in kidneys; and a negative relationship between the number of plant items and Pb-level in the liver, and between the number of grit particles and Pb-level in kidneys. Despite the limitations of our study due to the different degree of digestion of some food items, our findings suggest high bioavailability of Cd from animal food items and a low level or reduced gastrointestinal absorption of Pb from plant food (mainly cereals). We urge further research on absorption of Cd and Pb from different dietary components and application of diet analysis to explain the complex nature of bioaccumulation of anthropogenic contaminants in the internal organs and tissues of birds and other species of animals, especially in species with a mixed plant-animal diet.
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