Platinum group elements in the feathers of raptors and their prey
Journal article, 2002
Platinum (Pt), palladium (Pd) and rhodium (Rh) concentrations were determined in the feathers of three raptor species in Sweden; the sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), as well as the main prey of the sparrowhawk (the house sparrow, Passer domesticus) and the gyrfalcon (the willow grouse, Lagopus lagopus).
The analysis of feathers from 1917-1999 revealed a clear temporal trend, with significantly higher Rh concentrations in sparrowhawk and peregrine falcon after 1986. There is evidence for increasing PGE concentrations from 1917 to 1999 in peregrine falcon and sparrowhawk. This suggests that feathers reflect increased platinum group element (PGE) concentrations in the environment over this time period. Mean concentrations of PGE in feathers of raptors after 1986 ranged from 0.3 to 1.8 ngg-1 for Pt, 0.6 to 2.1 ngg-1 for Pd (indicative values), and 0.1 to 0.6 ngg-1 for Rh. House sparrows in urban areas had significantly higher Pt and Pd concentrations than urban sparrowhawks. The higher Pd concentrations in relation to Pt and Rh may indicate the greater mobility of Pd in the environment.
Although PGE concentrations are generally higher in birds living in urban areas, no significant spatial trend could be established. This is partly due to the widespread distribution of automobiles and partly because birds forage and integrate PGE exposure over large areas.
Laser ablation analysis demonstrates that PGE contamination of feathers is predominantly external, consisting of small particles in the nanometer size range. Other indications of external contamination are that Pt and Pd levels are significantly higher in the vane than in the shaft and that PGE relative ratios (except Pd) reflect urban particles.