NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Lead Poisoning and Other Human-Related Factors Cause Significant Mortality in White-Tailed Eagles

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
Date Published03/2018

The white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) suffered a severe population decline due to environmental pollutants in the Baltic Sea area ca. 50 years ago but has since been recovering. The main threats for the white-tailed eagle in Finland are now often related to human activities. We examined the human impact on the white-tailed eagle by determining mortality factors of 123 carcasses collected during 2000–2014. Routine necropsy with chemical analyses for lead and mercury were done on all carcasses. We found human-related factors accounting for 60% of the causes of death. The most important of these was lead poisoning (31% of all cases) followed by human-related accidents (e.g. electric power lines and traffic) (24%). The temporal and regional patterns of occurrence of lead poisonings suggested spent lead ammunition as the source. Lead shot was found in the gizzards of some lead-poisoned birds. Scavenging behaviour exposes the white-tailed eagle to lead from spent ammunition.

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TagsFinland; Land-Based Wind; White-Tailed Eagle; Eagles; 2018; Journal Article