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1 June 2014 Plumage Coloration in Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) At a Mercury-contaminated River
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Because Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) eat a diet comprised primarily of fish they are a useful indicator species for aquatic contaminants such as mercury. Monitoring efforts generally compare nesting success or tissue contaminant concentrations from contaminated sites with reference sites. In contrast, this study examined subtler potential effects of mercury accumulation by quantifying plumage coloration (structural and melanin based) of nesting adult Belted Kingfishers and relating it to individual mercury concentrations. Mercury exposure was associated with increased brightness of plumage color consistent with the hypothesis that mercury slows the production of melanin. Clear sex differences in the chroma and hue of blue body feathers identified during this study suggest that Belted Kingfishers possesses cryptic dimorphism beyond the rufous “belt,” and thus mercury-induced alterations in blue plumage could reduce fitness.

Ariel E. White and Daniel A. Cristol "Plumage Coloration in Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) At a Mercury-contaminated River," Waterbirds 37(2), 144-152, (1 June 2014).
Received: 11 May 2012; Accepted: 23 January 2014; Published: 1 June 2014

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