Biologist study finds mercury in predator peregrine falcons

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada state wildlife biologist is finding that not even the fastest bird on Earth can escape mercury contamination.

Joe Barnes tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal the toxic element is turning up in feathers of peregrine falcons from coast to coast, including at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Barnes’ latest findings are published in the Journal of Raptor Research.

He says peregrines can indicate ecosystem health because they live almost everywhere and feed on a wide variety of prey, from bats to hummingbirds to geese.

Most human mercury exposure in the U.S. is by eating fish. Mercury harms the nervous system, and inhaling mercury vapor can cause various symptoms or even death.

Mercury occurs naturally, but Barnes says research suggests levels have increased 300 percent in the last 250 years.