SREL Reprint #0542




Radiocesium Dynamics in Herons Inhabiting a Contaminated Reservoir System

A. H. Domby, D. Paine and R. W. McFarlane



The little blue heron (Florida caerulea) and the green heron (Butorides virescens) nest at a radionuclide-contaminated reservoir on the Savannah River Plant near Aiken, South Carolina.  Green herons distributed their nests singly along the periphery of the reservoir but fed their nestlings exclusively upon amphibians collected form adjacent uncontaminated Carolina bays.  Radiocesium burdens in green heron nestlings did not exceed 5 pCi/g wet wt. And 12 regurgitated food pellets averaged 0.2 pCi/g.  Twelve pairs of little blue herons established a heronry upon a small island and fed their nestlings fish and amphibians foraged form within the differentially radionuclide contaminated reservoir system.  Nestlings within the same nest did not exhibit significant differences in body burdens, and the maximum radiocesium burden determined was 27.4 pCi/g wet wt.  Substantial differences were found between nestlings from different nests however.  The radiocesium level of 43 regurgitated food pellets had a high correlation with observed levels in the nestlings, and variation in food contamination is believed to be the major contributor to the observed variation in the nestlings.  The variable contamination of primary prey species was correlated with the differentially contaminated foraging sites and indicates that adult little blue herons tended to spatially partition the available foraging areas.


SREL Reprint #0542

Domby, A.H., D. Paine, and R.W. McFarlane. 1977. Radiocesium dynamics in herons inhabiting a contaminated reservoir system. Health Physics 33:523-532.

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