Common Buzzard and Goshawk Lead Poisoning

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Common Buzzard (c) Andrew Bluett
Common Buzzard (c) Andrew Bluett

Over the last two months the ICBP has had two birds admitted with cases of lead poisoning. This account explains further, and might help others recognise the symptoms in other birds in the wild. The first case was of a Common buzzard which was admitted to the hospital by a member of the public on 9th February 2015 over in Mansell Lacy, Hereford. The bird was in good condition with no signs of breaks but it could not open its feet. The bird was seen by the ICBP’s top avian vet Neil Forbes whose initial assessment was that of lead poisoning, so the bird was treated accordingly without a blood test. An X-ray was carried out and no lead shot was visible so we are pretty sure this bird has not been shot but has ingested the lead. After a further week and a halves treatment the bird’s feet did not improve so the bird was euthanized. The second bird was a male Goshawk which had ‘fallen from the sky’ in front of a couple of walkers along Poets Path in Red Marley. This male happened to be wearing a BTO ring which showed the bird had been rung by Robin Husbands in 2012 at a nest in in the Newent area. On initial examination there was no signs of breaks or wounds but the bird again had no use of its feet or legs which were outstretched and clenched, otherwise this bird was in fantastic condition. Whilst hospitalised the bird showed poor co-ordination and something called star gazing which could be from neurological damage or lead poisoning. The Goshawk was taken to the vets for a blood test and x-ray, of which the x-ray showed no signs of the bird containing shot, but the blood test did later confirm the bird had lead poisoning. When the vet rang up to confirm lead toxicity he explained clinical levels of lead reach 60-100, severe levels 100 + and this Goshawk over 150 (units of measurement unknown). We continued the treatment for lead poisoning but sadly the bird started to go down hill and died on 13/3/15.

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