Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Lead Toxicity in Birds

Posted by  //  May 19, 2021  //  Articles, Creature Feature

Did you know that ingesting one small lead sinker can kill an adult loon?  When loons, bald eagles, swans and other birds swallow lead, it breaks down and releases toxins into their bloodstream leading to organ failure and death.  Lead toxicity is responsible for the deaths of millions of birds each year.  It is especially deadly in loons and eagles, which rarely survive even with veterinary intervention (such as the eagle shown here); and yet, lead tackle and lead ammunition continue to collect in the environment.

How do birds wind up ingesting lead?  Birds swallow grit to help digest food but can’t discern between pebbles and lead pellets.  Loons and eagles ingest lead when they eat living or dead fish with broken/cut fishing line and tackle attached.  Dabbling waterfowl ingest lead in the shallows or in flooded fields, where entire flocks have been poisoned by lead-contaminated water.  Hawks and other raptors ingest lead after eating dead, unrecovered game animals or from gut piles.

Isn’t lead illegal?  NY State laws regulating lead use in fishing, hunting and Skeet shooting are inadequate; some types of lead tackle and ammunition are illegal, while others are still permitted.  

How can we help?  STOP USING LEAD TODAY and spread the word about its deadly impact.  There are lead-free options available to sports enthusiasts – environmentally-safe, non-toxic products made from steel, copper and tungsten-nickel-iron blends.  They cost more, but isn’t the health of our wildlife and natural resources priceless?  

Article: Margie Manthey
Photo: Sandy Pines Wildlife Center

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