Waterfowl and passerines in northern Idaho in 1987 had high levels of lead in their blood and tissues that originated primarily from mining and smelting activities. Four Canada geese (Branta canadensis) and one common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) found dead contained 8 to 38 microg/g (wet mass) of lead in their livers. These levels exceed the lower lethal limit of 5 microg/g in experimental birds. Two of the Canada geese (one each from the contaminated and reference areas) died with ingested lead shotgun pellets (shot) in their gizzards, whereas the other three birds from the contaminated area contained no ingested shot and evidently died from ingesting environmental lead in sediment or biota. Lead burdens in most American robins (Turdus migratorius) and mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) were high, whereas those in tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) were slightly elevated. Lead accumulated to potentially hazardous levels in blood and tissues of some nestling robins (maxima of 0.87 microg/g in blood and 5.6 microg/g in liver) and mallards (maxima of 10.2 microg/g in blood and 2.8 microg/g in liver). In mallards, lead levels and associated physiological characteristics of blood were significantly different in juveniles (HY) versus adults (AHY). Activity of delta-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (ALAD) was about 87 to 95% lower than values for control birds in experimental studies. Activity of ALAD was significantly inversely correlated with blood lead levels. Cadmium was detected in kidneys of most birds, but even the maximum concentration of 7.5 microg/g in an AHY mallard was below known harmful levels.