Although a few isolated incidences of lead shot ingestion have been reported in ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) in Great Britain, no studies have investigated the prevalence of shot ingestion in this species. In this study we investigated the extent of lead exposure in ring-necked pheasants on shooting estates in Great Britain from the ingestion of shot and other sources through gizzard examinations and analysis of wing bones.
We examined 437 ring-necked pheasant gizzards collected from birds shot on 32 shooting estates during spring 1996 and 1997 and during the hunting seasons of 1999–2000 and 2001–2002. We determined wing-bone-lead concentrations in 98 female birds collected in 1997. Gizzard examinations showed an overall ingestion incidence rate of 3.0%. We found no differences in ingestion rates among years, seasons, and sexes. Female pheasants had bone-lead levels ranging from 7–445 ppm (x̄ =48.8± 8.8) dry weight. The birds that had lead in their gizzards in 1997 also had high concentrations of lead in their bones. Female pheasant body condition did not decline with the amount of lead in the wing bones. Our data suggest that game managers on shooting estates should be aware that pheasants are vulnerable to shot ingestion and may need to consider measures to reduce this problem in areas where prevalence is high.