Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Poisoning of wild birds from exposure to anticholinesterase compounds and lead: diagnostic methods and selected cases

January 1, 1999

Organophosphorus and carbamate compounds have largely replaced chlorinated hydrocarbons for pesticidal use in the United States, and many cases of poisoning resulting from exposure to these anticholinesterase agents have occurred in free-living birds. Although lead shot has been prohibited for waterfowl hunting throughout the United States since 1991, lead poisoning from the ingestion of spent lead shot is still occasionally seen in wild birds, and lead poisoning from the ingestion of fishing sinkers is an emerging issue of concern. A thorough history, a complete necropsy evaluation, and appropriate laboratory analysis of tissues are required to diagnose toxicoses in wild birds, including those caused by anticholinesterase compounds and lead. The interpretation of brain cholinesterase (ChE) activity results depends on the methods of analysis and comparison with expected normal enzyme activities in brain tissue from the same species. Although lead residues in tissues vary among species, many lead poisoned birds have tissue residues that are much higher than the lower threshold commonly accepted for a diagnosis of lead poisoning. We review histories, necropsy findings, and analytical methodologies and results for selected anticholinesterase and lead poisoning cases diagnosed in wild raptors, waterfowl, and loons.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1999
Title Poisoning of wild birds from exposure to anticholinesterase compounds and lead: diagnostic methods and selected cases
DOI 10.1016/S1055-937X(99)80030-9
Authors J. Christian Franson, Milton R. Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine
Index ID 1003788
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center