Mining and smelting at Kellogg-Smelterville, Idaho, resulted in high concentrations of lead in Coeur d'Alene (CDA) River sediments and the floodplain downstream, where American Kestrels (Falco sparverius), Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus), Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus), and Western Screech-owls (Otus kennicotti) nested. Nestling American Kestrels contained significantly higher (P=0.0012) blood lead concentrations along the CDA River (0.24 ?g/g, wet wt) than the nearby reference area (0.087 ?g/g). A 35% inhibition of blood *-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (ALAD) in nestling Northern Harriers (P=0.0001), 55% in nestling American Kestrels (P=0.0001) and 81% in adult American Kestrels (P=0.0004) provided additional evidence of lead exposure in the CDA River population. In nestling American Kestrels and Northern Harriers, ALAD activity was negatively correlated with lead in blood. An earlier report on Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) showed slightly less inhibition of ALAD than in American Kestrels, but no significant reduction in hemoglobin or hematocrit and no negative influence on production rates. The adult and nestling American Kestrels along the CDA River contained about twice as much blood lead as Ospreys during the same years (adult 0.46 vs. 0.20 ?g/g, and nestling 0.24 vs. 0.09 ?g/g), but adults showed a 7.5% reduction in hemoglobin (P=0.0356) and nestlings an 8.2% reduction in hemoglobin (P=0.0353) and a 5.8% reduction in hematocrit (P=0.0482). We did not observe raptor deaths related to lead, and although the production rate for American Kestrels was slightly lower along the CDA River, we found no significant negative relation between productivity and lead. Limited data on the other raptors provide evidence of exposure to lead along the CDA River. Several traits of raptors apparently reduce their potential for accumulating critical levels of lead which is primarily stored in bones of prey species.
Additional publication details
Lead in hawks, falcons and owls downstream from a mining site on the Coeur D'Alene river, Idaho