Between August 1992 and November 1995, 31 moribund or dead common loons (Gavia immer) found in the three Maritime provinces of Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island) were necropsied. Eight of these birds were in good body condition and died acutely from drowning or trauma. The remaining 23 birds were in poor body condition and had either chronic lead poisoning, respiratory mycosis, or oil contamination of their plumage. Loons in poor body condition had significantly higher numbers of intestinal trematodes and significantly higher levels of total renal mercury than loons in good body condition. Therefore, poor body condition in many loons was associated with two or more concurrent potential disease processes, although we could not establish a cause-effect relationship among these processes in individual birds. These results suggest that mortality in chronically ill wild animals can result from synergism among several potentially debilitating agents present in their environment.
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