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Transfer of elements to owls (Tyto alba, Strix aluco) determined using neutron activation and gamma analysis

By C.L. Barnett, B.J. Howard, D.H. Oughton, C. Coutris, E.D. Potter, T. Franklin, L.A. Walker and C. Wells


The IAEA has recently collated data for a handbook on transfer of radionuclides to wildlife (pending publication as a Technical Reports Series (TRS) document, see Howard et al. (2011)). During this process key data deficiencies were identified, one of which is the lack of data for many elements for birds. The majority of the available transfer data for birds are for game species (e.g. Lagopus spp.) and small song birds. The aim of this study was to consider the feasibility of using a predatory bird sample archive to derive whole organism concentration ratio (CRwo-soil) values for owls for a range of elements relevant to radiological assessments. The CRwo-soil is defined here as the ratio between the concentration of an element/radionuclide in owls (whole organism), measured in Bq kg-1 or mg kg-1 fresh weight (fw) and the concentration of the same element/radionuclide in soil, measured in Bq kg-1 or mg kg-1 dry weight (dw). The Barn (Tyto alba) and Tawny (Strix aluco) owls were selected as examples of a widespread, terrestrial, predatory bird for which archived samples from 2008 were available from the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS). Their predominant habitats are rough grassland, field and watercourse ‘edges’, and grass strips alongside woods. They have an average home range of approximately 3 km2 and their diet is predominantly rodents (especially voles) and small birds (Taylor, 1994). The PBMS scheme ( is a long-term (1970 onwards), large scale project which holds a sample archive of 32000 tissues and eggs of predatory birds from throughout the UK. Its aim is to quantify accumulation of contaminants and their effects in predatory birds. The birds submitted to the project have been found dead, usually from road accidents

Publisher: McMaster University
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:

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