Lead (Pb) concentrations in predatory bird livers 2010: a Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS) report

Walker, L.A.; Lawlor, A.J.; Potter, E.; Pereira, M.G.; Sainsbury, A.W.; Shore, R.F.. 2012 Lead (Pb) concentrations in predatory bird livers 2010: a Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS) report. Lancaster, NERC/Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, 13pp. (CEH Project Number: C04288)

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The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS; is the umbrella project that encompasses the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology’s National Capability contaminant monitoring and surveillance work on avian predators. By monitoring sentinel vertebrate species, the PBMS aims to detect and quantify current and emerging chemical threats to the environment and in particular to vertebrate wildlife. Lead (Pb) is a highly toxic metal that acts as a non-specific poison affecting all body systems and has no known biological requirement. Sources of Pb in the environment include lead mining, the refining and smelting of lead and other metals, the manufacture and use of alkyl lead fuel additives, and the use of lead ammunition. The present study is the first year of a PBMS monitoring programme to quantify the scale of exposure to (and associated risk from) Pb in predatory birds. The aim is to quantify the extent of exposure to lead (as assessed from liver residues) in two predatory bird species, the red kite (Mivus milvus) and the sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). The red kite is a scavenger and, as such, is particularly at risk from consumption of Pb ammunition in unretrieved game. Sparrowhawks prey predominantly upon live passerine birds that are unlikely to be shot in the UK; likely sources of exposure are diffuse Pb contamination although some individuals may also be exposed to Pb particles ingested by their prey. We also examined the liver Pb isotope ratios in order to explore whether they can be used to ascribe likely sources of any Pb detected in the birds. Red kites had significantly higher Pb concentration than those measured in sparrowhawks but the majority of sparrowhawks and all the red kites had liver Pb concentrations below those thought to cause clinical and sub-clinical adverse effects in Falconiforme species. There was overlap in the liver Pb isotope ratios of red kites and sparrowhawks yet also some evidence of separation between the two species, but more data are needed to confirm this. There was also evidence of overlap with the isotope signature for coal and for Pb shot but the isotope signatures in the bird livers were distinct from that of petrol Pb. The Pb isotope pattern observed in the red kites and sparrowhawks in the current study may reflect the fact that liver Pb concentrations were low in the small sample of birds that were analysed and may have been a result of exposure to low-level, diffuse contamination.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biogeochemistry > BGC Topic 1 - Monitoring and Interpretation of Biogeochemical and Climate Changes > BGC - 1.1 - Monitor concentrations, fluxes, physico-chemical forms of current and emerging pollutants ...
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Shore
Funders/Sponsors: NERC/Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Natural England, Environment Agency, Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Freely available online - click on Official URL link for full text
Additional Keywords: annual report, birds of prey, lead, Pb, sparrowhawk, red kite, monitoring, United Kingdom (UK), PBMS
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Related URLs:
Date made live: 06 Nov 2012 11:10 +0 (UTC)

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