American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) that breed on Anaho Island, Pyramid Lake, Nevada, are potentially exposed to a variety of contaminants. Therefore, the reproductive success of this colony was monitored in 1996 and eggs, blood and feathers from nestlings, livers from adults and nestlings, regurgitated fish from nestlings, and fish from representative feeding areas were collected and analyzed for mercury and selenium to determine exposure to the pelicans and sources of contamination. Additional samples were collected and analyzed in 1988, 1992, and 2004. Reproductive success at the Anaho Island colony was normal in 1996 based on hatching rates of eggs (≥75% in undisturbed areas) and survival of nestlings. Mercury and selenium concentrations in eggs were generally below known effect levels and did not appear to have an adverse impact on hatching success. Mercury and selenium concentrations in fish ranged widely, with mercury of greatest concern. Microscopic lesions characteristic of mercury toxicity were absent in pre-fledging nestlings in 1996. Some adult pelicans had elevated mercury concentrations in their livers; however, the potential toxic effects were difficult to evaluate because of probable demethylation of mercury, thereby possibly providing protection from toxicity. Exposure of pelicans to mercury varied among years, most likely in relation to wet-dry cycles and available feeding areas.
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Vol. 30 • No. 2