Lead Poisoning in Bald Eagles

Nearly driven to extinction in the 1960 due to the use of the pesticide DDT, the Bald Eagle has a long history of facing incredible struggles to their populations. After their listing on the Endangered Species Act and the banning on DDT, Bald Eagle populations made an impressive recovery (Joosse, 2022). However, lead poisoning has been increasingly imperiling this species in recent decades. Bald Eagles often consume remnants of lead gun ammunition and angling gear when consuming their prey, which has led to a dramatic increase in lead poisoning (Preidt, 2022).

A recent study that involved surveying eagles from 38 states found that nearly half of all Bald Eagles have lead poisoning (Joosse, 2022). Upon consumption, lead travels through the eagle’s bloodstream and through the liver, and can build up in their bones (Joosse, 2022). Symptoms of lead poisoning in Bald Eagles include seizures, diarrhea, impaired motor function, and even death.

Another study found that lead poisoning has resulted in a 3.8% decrease in population growth for Bald Eagles (Preidt, 2022). Additionally, it was found that lead poisoning is more common in older individuals, which could have impacts on population dynamics.

Lead poisoning is becoming a more pressing threat to Bald Eagles, and could have long-term impacts on population dynamics and growth. While populations of Bald Eagles are still growing, it is important to ensure we don’t make the same mistakes we did before with this symbolic species.


Joosse, T. (2022, February 17). Nearly half of bald eagles have lead poisoning. Science. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.science.org/content/article/nearly-half-bald-eagles-have-lead-poisoning

Preidt, R. (2022, February 21). Eagles are being poisoned by environmental lead. HealthDay. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://consumer.healthday.com/b-2-18-eagles-are-being-poisoned-by-environmental-lead-2656673156.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *