Mycotoxins are toxic metabolites produced by various species of fungi. Aflatoxin (AF), a particular type of mycotoxin, can negatively impact many wildlife species in the laboratory; however, the magnitude of the problem in the field environment is unclear. Wild birds generally consume a combination of native foods and agricultural grains. A common practice in which birds, such as northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), contact stored agricultural grain is through supplemental feeding. This feeding practice may promote the production of AF. The objectives of this study were to (1) examine AF production in supplemental feeders and (2) examine the relationship between weather and AF production in supplemental feeders. Samples were collected from supplemental feeders from November through February of 1996–97 and 1997–98. Mean monthly AF concentration of samples from feeders ranged from 0.57 ± 2.86 to 15.47 ± 14.69 ppb. Aflatoxin concentration in supplemental feeders increased from pre-sample to one month after filling the feeders each year. AF production in supplemental feeders was highly variable among months with no real temporal pattern between years. Instead, AF production was related to the highly variable relative humidity of the study area which influences moisture content of grain. Average relative humidity can be used to predict AF production.
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Vol. 37 • No. 3