From 1995 through 1999, 2,240 individuals of 28 species of waterbirds were examined in the United States for ingested lead fishing weights. A combination of radiography and visual examination of stomachs was used to search for lead weights and blood and liver samples from live birds and carcasses, respectively, were collected for lead analysis. Ingested lead weights were found most frequently in the Common Loon (Gavia immer) (11 of 313 = 3.5%) and Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) (10 of 365 = 2.7%), but also in one of 81 (1.2%) Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) and one of 11 (9.1%) Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax). Birds with ingested lead fishing weights (including split shot, jig heads, and egg, bell, and pyramid sinkers) were found in California, Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. The size and mass of ingested lead weights ranged from split shot of 7 mm in the longest dimension, weighing less than 2 g, to a 22 × 39 mm pyramid sinker that weighed 78.2 g. Six ingested lead weights were more than 25.4 mm in the longest dimension. Lead concentrations in the blood and liver of birds with lead fishing weights in their stomachs ranged up to 13.9 ppm and 26.0 ppm (wet weight basis), respectively. During the study, we also noted the presence of ingested or entangled fishing tackle, with no associated lead weights, in eight species.
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Vol. 26 • No. 3