Historically, lead poisoning through lead shot ingestion was one of the largest health issues affecting waterfowl in North America. Lead shot was banned for use in waterfowl hunting in the US in 1991 and was banned in Canada in 1997. However, biologists need to understand how, and if, lead shot remaining in the environment will continue to impact waterfowl. Our goal was to estimate lead and nontoxic shot consumption by female Northern Pintails (Anas acuta) wintering along the Texas coast. We found shot or metal fragments (or both) in the gizzards of 39 (17%) of 227 female Northern Pintails collected along the Texas coast. Of these, lead shot was found in seven gizzards, steel shot was found in 24 gizzards, and other metal and fragments were found in 20 gizzards. Some females consumed multiple shot types. Overall, shot (lead and nontoxic combined) ingestion rates were similar to those found prior to the lead shot ban in Texas (14%) and Louisiana (17%); however, lead shot ingestion rates were considerably lower, suggesting that it is becoming less available over time. All Northern Pintails that had lead shot in their gizzards were collected from coastal habitats. While it seems that lead shot ingestion by Northern Pintails has decreased since the ban was put in place, monitoring lead shot ingestion rates from different regions will provide insight into its availability in different habitats and under various environmental conditions.
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Vol. 52 • No. 1