America’s national bird has a poisonous problem.
Research published in mid-February indicates that 46% of bald eagles show signs of chronic lead exposure.
Prolonged exposure can be fatal.
“You’re going to see a very depressed bird” if you encounter a lead-poisoned bald eagle, according to Victoria Hall, director of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. “Any raptor you can walk towards is not normal. Lead poisoned eagles might not be able to move. They might just be stuck on the ground. They might be very uncoordinated, they might not be able to see. They look like a sick bird if it suffers from severe lead poisoning.”
Experts believe that most lead is a byproduct of hunting.
“Lead is an extremely soft metal,” Hall said. “When it hits objects with a gunshot, it splinters. And it only takes lead the size of a grain of rice to kill an eagle.”
The impact on the bald eagle population mirrors the effect of lead impact on the overall ecosystem. Exposure has been detected in fish, mammals and other birds.
Lawmakers are taking note.
California banned the use of lead ammunition for hunting purposes in 2019.
Other states have enacted or are considering lesser bans.
“We have a chance to protect this species,” Hall said. “A species that has come close to extinction in the past, along with DDT and other chemicals, which we have brought back. We are seeing signs of another threat to these birds, now is the perfect time to act to protect them. .”