Blood collected from song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) and American robins (Turdus migratorius) captured with mist nets in a lead-contaminated (assessment) area and nearby uncontaminated (reference) areas within the Coeur d'Alene Basin in northern Idaho was analyzed for d-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase activity (ALAD) and hematocrit levels, and livers were analyzed for lead. Mean ALAD inhibition in the assessment area was 51% in song sparrows and 75% in American robins. The proportion of the sampled population with ALAD inhibition >50% was calculated to be 43% for song sparrows and 83% for American robins. Assessment area hematocrit values for song sparrows (0 = 39.9) and American robins (0 = 39.5) were lower than in reference areas (0 = 42.4 for song sparrows and 40.2 for American robins); however, differences were not statistically significant (p > 0.05). Significantly higher levels of lead (wet weight) were found in livers from song sparrows captured on the assessment area (0 = 1.93 ppm) than on reference areas (0 = 0.10 ppm) (p = 0.0079). Study results indicate that 43% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 12.9-77.5%) of the song sparrows and 83% (95% CI = 41.8-99.2%) of the American robins inhabiting the floodplain along the Coeur d'Alene River in the assessment area are being exposed to lead at levels sufficient to inhibit ALAD by > 50%. Variability in lead exposure indicators was attributed to high variability in environmental lead concentrations in the Coeur d'Alene River Basin.
Additional publication details
Lead exposure in passerines inhabiting lead-contaminated floodplains in the Coeur d'Alene River Basin, Idaho, USA