Sex-related and spatial variation in trace elements in feathers of the Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) from different coastal areas of the Iberian Peninsula

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Apr 20;766:144628. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144628. Epub 2020 Dec 25.


This study investigated the sex-related and spatial variation in trace elements concentrations in feathers of the Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) inhabiting different coastal locations in the Iberian Peninsula. Feathers were sampled in a total of 50 breeding birds from 7 different locations: 3 on the Mediterranean coast (n=18), 1 on the Atlantic coast of Andalusia (n=9) and 3 on the NW Atlantic coast (n=23). The feathers were analyzed to determine the concentrations of Al, Cr, Mn, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Cd, Hg and Pb. All of the trace elements were present at detectable concentrations, and the mean concentrations of Al, Zn and Cu were highest of those considered. The coastal section had a significant effect on 5 elements (Mn, Cu, As, Cd and Pb). The mean concentrations of almost all of the trace elements were highest in the birds from Andalusia, intermediate in the birds from the Mediterranean area and, in general, lowest in the birds from the NW Atlantic coast. Females showed significant higher Mn concentrations and high levels of exogenous elements (Al and As) in contrast with males. Less preening activity during the day of female birds, when they are occupied in incubating eggs, could favour higher concentrations of exogenous trace elements. The high levels of several trace elements observed in the samples from Mediterranean and Atlantic coast of Andalusia may pose a serious threat to these populations.

Keywords: Breeding habitats; Pollution; Shorebird conservation; Tinto-Odiel estuary.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Charadriiformes*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Feathers / chemistry
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mercury* / analysis
  • Trace Elements* / analysis


  • Trace Elements
  • Mercury