Occurrence of microplastics in pellets from the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) along the Ticino River, North Italy

Date of publication 3 August 2020

Authors Winkler, Anna; Nessi, Alessandro; Antonioli, Diego; Laus, Michele; Santo, Nadia; Parolini, Marco; Tremolada, Paolo.

Sources Environmental Science and Pollution Research :

DOILink https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-020-10163-x


Previous research has reported avian plastic ingestion in marine bird species. Yet, while research attention on plastic pollution is shifting from marine to freshwater ecosystems, very few information on plastic ingestion is available for freshwater birds. Here, we examined the presence of microplastic in regurgitated pellets of the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) collected along the Ticino River (North Italy). In total, 133 kingfisher’s pellets were examined between March and October 2019 from 54 transects along the river. Plastic elements were detected and identified by visual inspection followed by mu-FTIR and SEM-EDS. Overall, we found 12 (micro)plastics from at least three different polymers in 7.5% of the pellets. This study provides the first report of plastic uptake of this bird species. It highlights the importance of spectroscopic techniques in plastic monitoring studies in order to avoid misidentification of items found. Documenting the presence of plastic ingestion by top carnivores such as fish-eating birds is necessary to understand the pervasiveness and impact of (micro)plastic pollution in food webs of freshwater ecosystems.

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