We measured intra- and postoperative mortality rates of captive and free-ranging Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) undergoing surgical liver biopsy sampling for determination of the induction of cytochrome P4501A, a biomarker of oil exposure. Liver biopsies were taken from and radio transmitters were implanted into 157 free-ranging Harlequin Ducks over three winters (55 in 2000, 55 in 2001, and 47 in 2002). No birds died during surgery, but seven (4.5%) died during recovery from anesthesia (three in 2001 and four in 2002). None of the deaths could be attributed directly to the liver biopsy. Four of the 150 (2.7%) birds that were released died in the 2 wk period after surgery. All post-release deaths occurred in 2001; no birds died after release in 2000 or 2002. No mortalities of 36 captive birds occurred during surgery or recovery or in the 2 wk period following surgery. Hemorrhage was a minor problem with one captive bird. Surgical liver biopsies appear to be a safe procedure, but anesthetic complications may occur with overwintering ducks.
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Vol. 46 • No. 4