Ingestion of lead (Pb) derived from ammunition used in the hunting of game animals is recognised to be a significant potential source of Pb exposure of wild birds, including birds of prey.
A 11-year study that used the PBMS tissue archive, data and expertise quantified and characterised Pb concentration in the livers and bones of common buzzard from across the United Kingdom. Concentrations in the liver consistent with acute exposure to Pb were found in 2.7% of birds and concentration in the femur consistent with exposure to lethal levels were found in 4.0% of individuals.
Stable isotope analysis of the buzzard’s livers showed that the resemblance of the stable isotope composition of Pb from buzzard livers to that of Pb from the types of shotgun ammunition most widely-used in the UK increased markedly with increasing Pb concentration in the liver.
The study concluded that most of the Pb acquired by Eurasian buzzards which have liver concentrations likely to be associated with lethal and sublethal effects is probably obtained when they prey upon or scavenge gamebirds and mammals shot using Pb shotgun pellets.
This study was led by the University of the Highlands and Islands, with collaborations from a broad range of laboratories from within the UK and Europe. The article can be downloaded from ScienceDirect: Taggart et al. 2020. Concentration and origin of lead (Pb) in liver and bone of Eurasian buzzards (Buteo buteo) in the United Kingdom. Environ. Pollution https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2020.115629