Poisoning affected one-third of waterbirds sampled and killed one in ten of those found dead
October 2012. Post-mortem results of thousands of UK waterbirds reveal that poisoning from spent lead shot is still a major cause of death more than ten years after legislation was introduced to reduce the threat.
The analysis is published alongside the results of blood samples taken from live waterbirds caught in Britain within the last two years, which show that more than one in three of the birds sampled were affected by lead poisoning.
Lead is toxic and most uses of lead have systematically been phased out over the last three decades. However lead remains the most common material for shot in the UK. Waterbirds eat spent lead shot when feeding and taking in grit to help grind food in their gizzards. As the lead is absorbed into their bodies, it affects virtually every system. For example, it paralyses stomach muscles, causing food to become packed into the intestine, and birds can die of starvation.