Lead and Mercury in Fall Migrant Golden Eagles from Western North America

Heiko W. Langner, Robert Domenech, Vincent A. Slabe, Sean P. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lead exposure from ingestion of bullet fragments is a serious environmental hazard to eagles. We determined blood lead levels (BLL) in 178 golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) captured during fall migration along a major North American flyway. These eagles spent the breeding season distributed over a large range and are the best currently available representation of free flying golden eagles on the continent. We found 58 % of these eagles containing increased BLL > 0.1 mg/L; 10 % were clinically lead poisoned with BLL > 0.6 mg/L; and 4 % were lethally exposed with BLL > 1.2 mg/L. No statistical difference in BLL existed between golden and bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Golden eagles captured on carrion had higher BLL than those captured using live bait suggesting differences in feeding habits among individuals. Median BLL increased with age class. We propose a conceptual model for the long-term increase in BLL after ingestion of lead particles. The mean blood mercury level in golden eagles was 0.023 mg/L. We evaluate a field test for BLL that is based on anodic stripping voltammetry. This cost-effective and immediate method correlated well with results from inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry, although results needed to be corrected for each calibration of the test kit.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-61
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology


Dive into the research topics of 'Lead and Mercury in Fall Migrant Golden Eagles from Western North America'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this