Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Environmental Pollution



PubMed ID





School of Science


NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) / McKenzie Fellowship Program of the University of Melbourne / National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health / Australian Research Council

Grant Number

ARC Number : LP210200539


Hampton, J. O., Lohr, M. T., Specht, A. J., Nzabanita, D., Hufschmid, J., Berger, L., . . . Pay, J. M. (2023). Lead exposure of mainland Australia's top avian predator. Environmental Pollution, 332, article 122004.


Lead (Pb) toxicity, through ingestion of lead ammunition in carcasses, is a threat to scavenging birds worldwide, but has received little attention in Australia. We analyzed lead exposure in the wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax), the largest raptor species found in mainland Australia and a facultative scavenger. Eagle carcasses were collected opportunistically throughout south-eastern mainland Australia between 1996 and 2022. Lead concentrations were measured in bone samples from 62 animals via portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF). Lead was detected (concentration > 1 ppm) in 84% (n = 52) of the bone samples. The mean lead concentration of birds in which lead was detected was 9.10 ppm (±SE 1.66). Bone lead concentrations were elevated (10–20 ppm) in 12.9% of samples, and severe ( > 20 ppm) in 4.8% of samples. These proportions are moderately higher than equivalent data for the same species from the island of Tasmania, and are comparable to data from threatened eagle species from other continents. Lead exposure at these levels is likely to have negative impacts on wedge-tailed eagles at the level of the individual and perhaps at a population level. Our results suggest that studies of lead exposure in other Australian avian scavenger species are warranted.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.