US Geological Survey


Document Type


Date of this Version



Science of the Total Environment 438 (2012) 527–532;


Brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) were listed as endangered in the United States in 1970, largely due to reproductive failure and mortality caused by organochlorine contaminants, such as DDT. The southeast population, P.o. carolinensis, was delisted in 1985, while the west coast population, P.o. californicus, was not delisted until 2009. As fish-eating coastal seabirds, brown pelicans may serve as a biomonitors. Organic contaminants were examined in brown pelican eggs collected from the Gulf of California in 2004 and South Carolina in 2005 using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Contaminants were compared using all individual data as well as statistically pooled samples to provide similar sample sizes with little difference in results. Principal components analysis separated the Gulf of California brown pelican eggs from the South Carolina eggs based on contaminant patterns. The South Carolina population had significantly (Pb0.05) higher levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlordanes, dieldrin and mirex, while the Gulf of California eggs had higher levels of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethanes (DDTs) and hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs). With the exception of dieldrin and brominated diphenyl ether (BDE) 47, this pattern was observed for mussel and oyster tissues from these regions, indicating the need for further study into the differences between east and west coast brown pelican populations and ecosystem contamination patterns.