Epizootic mortality occurred in Laysan albatross (Diomedea immutabilis) fledgings at Midway Atoll in 1983. Heavy metal toxicity from ingestion of weathered paint chips was one of the causes. Sick albatrosses were unable to retract their wings, causing a “droop-wing” appearance. Five normal and 12 droop-winged fledglings were captured, killed, and examined. Paint chips found in the proventriculus of the affected fledglings contained up to 144,000 ppm lead. Blood, liver, and kidney concentrations of lead in affected birds were higher than in normal fledglings, and acid-fast intranuclear inclusion bodies were present in the kidneys. Degenerative lesions were present in the myelin of some brachial nerves. Weathered paint samples collected from 12 buildings contained up to 247,250 ppm lead and 101 ppm mercury. Lead poisoning was diagnosed in 10 of the droop-winged albatrosses and was one of the causes of morbidity. Mercury toxicosis and plastic impaction were other possible causes.
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Vol. 23 • No. 3