Certain contaminants alter normal physiological function, morphology, and behavior of exposed organisms through an endocrine mechanism. We evaluated how the herbicide linuron, an endocrine-active compound, affects physiological parameters and secondary sex characteristics of the American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis). When administered at relatively low doses (control, 1.0, 4.0, and 16.0 μg linuron per gram of body mass per day), linuron delayed prealternate molt progression in a dose-dependent manner. At the high dose level, linuron exposure lowered hematocrit and female plasma thyroxine concentrations and increased body mass. Neither plasma testosterone concentrations nor the color of plumage or integument of birds in the treatment groups were different from those of the control group. Overall, the physiological effects that were measured suggested disruption of thyroid function. These results highlight the importance of continual monitoring of avian populations for potential effects of exposure to pesticides and other chemicals at sublethal concentrations.
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Vol. 125 • No. 2