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Lead consumption in Birds


Lead shot has long been considered one of the most serious threats to the California Condor. Condors feed on carrion. Lead shot left in the remains of animals killed by hunters has been proven to be a significant source of lead poisoning and death of condors. Fortunately much work has been done recently to reduce or eliminate the use of lead in bullets used for hunting.

The British are also documenting and reacting to the use use of lead shot. The use of lead shot has been restricted throughout the United Kingdom since 1999. The rules differ in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so the details vary. The rules were designed largely to prevent lead shot being used over wetland habitats, and seem to be ineffective.

In England and Wales game birds like pheasant and grouse can be shot with lead. Hunters must use non-toxic ammunition to shoot ducks and geese. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust recently carried out tests on just over 100 ducks purchased as “locally shot” from suppliers in England and found that more than three quarters were killed using lead. So, lead shot is still being used.

A report published by the University of Oxford indicated that about 100,000 wetland birds die in the UK from lead poising each year. Also that the use of lead shot has a greater imp ace on human health than previously thought. Lord Krebs, emeritus professor of zoology at the University of Oxford, and former chair of the UK Food Standards Agency, has stated that there was “an overwhelming body of evidence” that lead used in hunting was “a risk both to humans and to wildlife”. “His advice – lead shot should be phased out.”

(This article includes excerpts from reports on the BBC)

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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