William & Mary

Bird songs and feather colors affected by heavy metals

Kelly Hallinger W&M '14; Photo by Dan CristolPopular science journals have picked up on findings originally published in academic journals by professor Dan Cristol and other members of W&M Biology's IIBBS research group. Environmental Health News (EHN) prepared an article, "Heavy metal songs: Contaminated songbirds sing the wrong tunes", that highlights the dramatic effect that mercury contamination has on key features of avian behavior and anatomy. The IHN article includes links to audio samples of bird songs illustrating the effect of heavy metals, and is rich in photos taken at W&M. National Geographic co-published the story and others as part of the Winged Warnings series, with the title "Wild Birds' Songs, Feather Colors Changed by Mercury Contamination".