Science Inventory

Exposure and Effects of PFAS on Birds


Odegard, A., E. Pavlovic, A. Pesano, AND M. Etterson. Exposure and Effects of PFAS on Birds. Twin Ports Freshwater Folk Meeting, Duluth, MN, February 01, 2023.


Presentation to the Twin Ports Freshwater Folk Meeting February 2023. Twin Ports Freshwater Folk (TPFF) is an informal gathering of people from the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, who are engaged in freshwater research, policy, or regulation issues, for networking, informal discussion, and a seminar. Attendees include researchers, managers, communicators, and community members interested in freshwater science. At each meeting attendees first network in facilitated discussion groups then hear from our invited speaker(s).


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of highly persistent chemicals that are known to bioaccumulate in food webs. Lab and field studies suggest that exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS; and likely other PFAS) may be harmful to avian reproduction and that insectivorous birds feeding in aquatic habitats may have an increased risk. However, the distribution and movement of PFAS in avian food webs and the subsequent effects on avian reproduction are poorly understood. To address these knowledge gaps, the avian research team proposes to characterize PFAS concentrations in environmental and biological samples at sites in Duluth, MN. We have established populations of three species of breeding songbirds at six sites with varying levels of environmental PFAS contamination. During the 2022 field season, nest boxes were monitored biweekly for occupancy, productivity, and success. Biological tissue samples (i.e., eggs and nestlings) were collected to assess PFAS exposure. Environmental samples (i.e., water, sediment, and soil) were collected every two weeks to establish baseline concentrations of PFAS and legacy contaminants at each site. In addition, we collected samples from suspected food web pathways including aquatic invertebrates, spiders, and fish. In addition to PFAS analysis, these samples will be measured alongside representative plants for δ13C and δ15N to determine trophic feeding status of nestlings and the contribution of aquatic or terrestrial food sources. To characterize invertebrate prey diets, fecal sacs were collected from nestlings for eDNA metabarcoding and preliminary data suggests that nestlings are fed an astounding variety of prey. Field data will ultimately be integrated into a model system to predict avian fitness given known environmental concentrations of PFAS.


DOI: Exposure and Effects of PFAS on Birds   Exit EPA's Web Site

2023_TPFF.PDF  (PDF, NA pp,  7848.096  KB,  about PDF)

Record Details:

Product Published Date:02/01/2023
Record Last Revised:04/11/2023
OMB Category:Other
Record ID: 357537