Effects of electromagnetic fields on the reproductive success of American kestrels

Physiol Biochem Zool. 2000 Jan-Feb;73(1):60-5. doi: 10.1086/316726.


Reduced reproductive success of birds nesting near power lines has been documented but never directly attributed to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Laboratory studies have identified EMF effects on embryonic development, but reproductive success of wild birds is dependent on additional factors, including fertility, egg size, hatching, and fledging success. We tested whether EMFs affect reproductive success of birds. Captive American kestrels (Falco sparverius) were bred for one season per year for 2 yr under either controlled or EMF conditions. EMF exposure was equivalent to that experienced by wild reproducing kestrels and was weakly associated with reduced egg laying in 1 yr only. In both years fertility was higher, but hatching success was lower in EMF pairs than control pairs. Fledging success was higher in EMF pairs than control pairs in 1995 only. Egg composition and embryonic development were examined in 1 yr only, but hatchlings were measured in both years. EMF eggs were larger, with more yolk, albumen, and water, but had thinner egg shells than control eggs. Late-term EMF embryos were larger and longer than control embryos, although hatchlings were similar in body mass and size. EMF exposure affected reproductive success of kestrels, increasing fertility, egg size, embryonic development, and fledging success but reducing hatching success.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / embryology
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Male
  • Raptors / physiology*
  • Reproduction*