Ending Lead Poisoning of Wild Birds

Bald Eagle suffering the effects of lead poisoning by Marge Gibson

Bald Eagle suffering the effects of lead poisoning by Marge Gibson


The Challenge


Lead is a deadly toxin that continues to be a mortality threat to birds. Despite a 1991 federal ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting, lead poisoning remains a problem for birds through the hundreds of tons of lead deposited in the environment annually by upland game bird hunting; deer, elk, bear and other mammal hunting; and fishing. With several good alternatives to lead available on the market, it is simply not necessary to continue using lead.


An additional lead threat has emerged from paint peeling from federal buildings on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, which is threatening the world’s largest breeding colony of Laysan Albatrosses. Read more about Albatrosses on Midway here.


ABC Conservation Framework

This program falls under Eliminating Threats in ABC's Conservation Framework
pyramid icon threats


Primary Birds Impacted

Raptors, including Bald and Golden Eagles, California Condors, Mourning Doves, and waterfowl including Trumpeter Swans , Loons, Ducks, and Geese. Laysan Albatrosses on Midway Atoll.



ABC believes that all lead shot and bullets for hunting and fishing weights should be phased out in favor of those made from less-hazardous alternatives such as copper, tin, and tungsten. These alternatives are readily available, and although they are more costly, the price will come down significantly as production increases. To learn more about the facts and myths about lead and lead-free ammunition, and what ABC wants to see happen, click here.

ABC Results

ABC Results Button American Bird Conservancy has gathered significant scientific data on wildlife poisoning from lead bullet fragments, shotgun pellets, and fishing gear. Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Mourning Doves, ravens, loons, and California Condors all have been significantly impacted by eating lead fragments and fishing weights over the past 20 years. View a list of references here.
ABC Results Button The New York Times published an editorial criticizing the EPA for its decision to reject the ammunition portion of the petition. Read the editorial here.


What Next?

What Next Button Ensure that lead is no longer a threat to the environment through a phase-out of toxic ammunition and fishing tackle
What Next Button Educate the public, particularly the hunting community, as to the negative effects of lead bullets and the availability and efficacy of non-toxic alternatives.
What Next Button Work with sporting goods retailers to stop selling toxic ammunition and fishing lures.

Take Action

Hunters can choose one of eight types of non-toxic shot for hunting. Although the federal ban on lead does not stretch to upland game hunting, making the change to alternative forms of shot will prevent the poisoning of millions of birds. Click here to get information on non-toxic bullet manufacturer and retailers to help you transition to lead-free hunting.


As a responsible hunter, you can play a pivotal role in ensuring that the facts about lead and the petition are broadly understood in the community. You can view some helpful information to help you dispel myths and disseminate facts.


Lead-free fishing sinkers and jigs are also widely available, and where used will prevent the needless deaths of waterfowl such as Trumpeter Swans, loons, ducks, and geese.