Lead contamination is common in many cities worldwide. While its impact on humans has been well studied, little is known about the impact of sub-lethal exposure on urban wildlife. In a previous Morris Animal Foundation-funded pilot study, researchers showed that lead levels in mockingbird adults, nestlings and eggs appear to be correlated with environmental lead exposure, and noted health problems and hyper-aggressive behavior in birds with higher lead levels. The team will build on these preliminary results and focus on how lead exposure impacts mockingbird behavior and its effects on reproductive success and health. Mockingbirds eat a broad range of prey items, including bugs, fruits and berries, and the relative proportion of these items to the overall diet varies among life stages and territories. For this reason, mockingbirds serve as a valuable model to understand the broader risk of sub-lethal lead exposure in urban wildlife and pets.
Grant amount awarded
Jordan Karubian, PhD