Our objective was to determine if ground foraging passerines in a woodland surrounding a trap and skeet range were subject to lead poisoning. Lead availability to birds was determined by shot counts and soil and earthworm analysis. Avian exposure to lead was identified by measuring free-erythrocyte protoporphyrin levels in blood and lead in tissues of three passerine species. Results showed that most shot were found in the top 3 cm of soil. Lead measurements ranged from 110 to 27,000 ppm (dry wt) in soil and were 660 and 840 ppm in earthworms. Sparrows held in an aviary at the range (p = 0.02) and free-flying juncos (p = 0.0005) mistnetted at the range displayed significantly higher protoporphyrin levels than those at an uncontaminated site. Sparrow and cowbird carcasses from the aviary carried 37 and 39 ppm lead (dry wt), respectively, whereas a junco liver contained 9.3 ppm lead.
Additional publication details
Lead poisoning of passerines at a trap and skeet range