Bioaccumulation of toxic environmental mercury may affect the vital rates of piscivores such as the common loon (Gavia immer). Although immediate effects of mercury on early development or reproduction can be determined from short-term field studies or dosing experiments, long-term effects on survival for a long-lived species such as the common loon must be discerned from large, long-term observational data sets. We analyzed band-resight and mercury data for 776 adult loons in Wisconsin and New England, USA, from 1991 to 2001 to 1) estimate annual survival rates and 2) investigate the relation between mercury exposure and survival. The model-averaged estimate of apparent survival was 0.87, whereas the approximate survival rate (accounting for movement) was 0.92. We found no differences in apparent survival by geographic location or sex and no relation between survival and mercury. Power analyses showed that we were only likely to detect differences in survival ≥3%. Small differences in survival (<3%), which may be important to loon population viability, were unlikely to be detected in our dataset.
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