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J Environ Monit. 2006 Jan;8(1):209-13. Epub 2005 Nov 9.

Monitoring urban heavy metal pollution using the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).

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Dept. of Biology and Biochemistry, Birzeit University, P.O. Box 14, Birzeit, West Bank, Palestinian Authority.


The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is one of the most successful birds in the urban environment, and has a global distribution. The present study aims to provide baseline data about metals in sparrows from urban environments in the West Bank and to investigate the possibility of using the House Sparrow to monitor metal pollution in urban environments. Concentrations of Cu, Cd, Pb and Zn were measured in different tissues and organs of male and female juvenile (1-4 weeks old) and adult House Sparrows from the West Bank. Tissues and organs had the following order of metal richness: liver > stomach > bone > lung, feathers > muscles > egg contents, brain > heart > egg shell. Significant correlation coefficients were observed for the concentrations of Cu, Pb, and Zn in the egg shell and for the egg contents. Male and female Sparrows showed no significant differences in their metal concentrations. Adult Sparrows collected from rural areas were found to have significantly less Cu, Pb, and Zn (but not Cd) concentrations than those from urban environments. In order to investigate metal accumulation with age, metal concentrations were plotted against age stage (egg, 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-week-old juveniles and adults). Significant relationships were observed between age stage and Cu, Pb, and Zn concentrations. The results provide some evidence for the potential of the House Sparrow as a biomonitor for urban heavy metal pollution. However, further issues regarding metal physiological regulation and the correlations between metals in the environment and those in tissues of the House Sparrows have to be addressed before recommending this bird as a biomonitor for urban metal pollution.

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