Coastal Raptors is collaborating with Dr. Da Chen, a research biologist at Southern Illinois University (SIU) with a specialty in contaminants in raptors. In 2013, we sent Dr. Chen blood plasma samples from 6 Peregrine Falcons captured that year. Chen analyzed the samples for pesticides (DDT and its breakdown products, primarily DDE), PCBs, and fire retardants. While DDT and PCB use has been banned in the US, these chemicals still persist in the environment. Fire retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, have been added to products such as furniture, electronics and carpeting to reduce the risk of fire-related injuries. PBDEs have emerged as a contaminant threat over the past decade.

Despite having been found hunting on Washington's outer coast, far from population centers, contaminant levels in some of the peregrines tested to date have been surprisingly high. A male peregrine we banded with visual identification band code W/Z is one of those birds. W/Z is one that many of us involved with Coastal Raptors field work have observed, handled and photographed over the years (PDF Download).

He had the highest PCB levels, highest DDE levels, and second highest PBDE levels of the six tested.


November 2014 we submitted an additional 81 samples to Dr. Chen, bringing the total number sent to his lab at SIU to 87 (see Map). The number includes two more samples taken from W/Z, one in 2010 and another in 2011. Blood samples we have collected from Peregrine Falcons are especially valuable for two reasons: 1) they were collected over a 14-year period, dating back to 2000, and 2) in many instances, we have collected samples from the same individual over a number of years. These samples, as a result, provide important information on contaminant exposure in coastal Peregrine Falcons over time.

Sample analysis is expensive. Costs to cover the six samples already analyzed came from "start-up funds" available to Dr. Chen through SIU. Coastal Raptors provided funding for analysis of an additional six samples in 2015, at $200 per sample. Coastal Raptors is seeking additional funding, through individual gift donations or grants, to analyze the rest.