European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 31–34 | Cite as

Incidence of ingested lead gunshot in wild grey partridges (Perdix perdix) from the UK

  • G. R. PottsEmail author
Original Paper


From 1947 to 1992, successive pathologists at The Game Conservancy Trust carried out 1,318 post-mortems on adult wild grey partridges found dead in the UK. During a study of chick food from 1968 to 1978 on the Sussex Downs, the gizzards of 29 wild chicks aged up to 6 weeks were also examined. This paper reports the incidence of lead gunshot ingestion in these two groups of birds. On the assumption that there is no temporal bias, the incidence of lead poisoning increased from 1947–1958 to 1963–1992. During 1963–1992, the incidence of lead gunshot ingestion was 4.5±1.0% in adults and 6.9±4.7% in chicks. The weights of individual lead shot in the chick gizzards showed a rapid rate of erosion, indicating a short retention time in the gizzard, as also reported for adult waterfowl and game birds. The incidence rates in grey partridge and waterfowl found dead can therefore be compared. From 1963 to 1992, the overall incidence of ingested lead gunshot in the grey partridge in the UK was 52% of that of waterfowl (Anatidae excluding mute swan), significantly lower.


Partridge Perdix perdix Lead gunshot Lead poisoning 



This study would have been impossible without the work of the late Dr Phyllis Clapham and her successors and it is a pleasure to acknowledge their work. I am grateful for the help of Clive Lachlan, Nicholas Aebisher and David Butler in the preparation of this paper.


  1. Beer J V, Stanley P (1965) Lead poisoning in the Slimbridge wildfowl collection. Wildfowl Trust Annu Rep 16:30–34Google Scholar
  2. Beer JV (1988) Diseases of gamebirds and wildfowl. Game Conservancy Ltd, FordingbridgeGoogle Scholar
  3. Bellrose FC (1959) Lead poisoning as a mortality factor in waterfowl populations. Bull Illinois Nat Hist Surv 27:235–288Google Scholar
  4. Butler DA, Sage RB, Draycott RAH, Carroll JP, Potts GR (2004) Lead exposure in ring-necked pheasants in Great Britain. Wildl Soc Bull (in press)Google Scholar
  5. Calnek BW, Barnes HJ, Beard CW, McDonald LR, Saif YM (1997) Diseases of poultry, 10th edn. Mosby-Wolfe, London, pp 986–987Google Scholar
  6. Calvert H (1876) Pheasants poisoned by swallowing shot. Field 47:189Google Scholar
  7. Clark AJ, Scheuhammer AM (2003) Lead poisoning in upland-foraging birds of prey in Canada. Ecotoxicology 12:23–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clausen B, Wolstrup C (1979) Lead poisoning in Game from Denmark. Dan Rev Game Biol 11:1–22Google Scholar
  9. Esslinger CG, Klimstra WD (1983) Lead shot ingestion on a public goose hunting area in southern Illinois. Wildl Soc Bull 11:315–323Google Scholar
  10. Gjerstad KO, Hanssen I (1984) Experimental lead poisoning in willow ptarmigan. J Wildl Manage 48:1018–1022Google Scholar
  11. Holland G (1882) Pheasant poisoned by swallowing shot. Field 59:232Google Scholar
  12. Jorgensen SS, Willems M (1987) The fate of lead in soils: the transformation of lead pellets in shooting range soils. Ambio 16:11–15Google Scholar
  13. Kendall RJ, Lacher TE, Bunck C, Daniel B, Driver C, Grue CE, Leighton F, Stansley W, Watanabe PG, Whitworth M (1996) An ecological risk assessment of lead shot exposure in non-waterfowl avian species: upland game birds and raptors. Environ Toxicol Chem 15:4–20Google Scholar
  14. Keymer IF (1958) A survey and review of the causes of mortality in British Birds and the significance of wild birds as disseminators of disease. Vet Rec 70:713–720; 736–740Google Scholar
  15. Keymer IF, Stebbings RSJ (1987) Lead poisoning in a partridge (Perdix perdix) after ingestion of gunshot. Vet Rec 120:276–277Google Scholar
  16. Longcore JR, Locke LN., Bagley GE, Andrews R (1974) Significance of lead residues in mallard tissues. US Fish Wildl Serv Spec Sci Rep Wildl 183:1–23Google Scholar
  17. McConnel CA (1968) Experimental lead poisoning of bobwhite quail and mourning dove. In: Proc Annu Conf Southeast Assoc Game Fish Commissioners 21:208–219Google Scholar
  18. McDiarmid AD (1988) in litt. Veterinary report to GCT citing death of grey partridge in May 1988 at clay pigeon ground in BerkshireGoogle Scholar
  19. Moreby SJ (1988) An aid to the identification of arthropod fragments in the faeces of game-bird chicks (Galliformes). Ibis 130:519–526Google Scholar
  20. Mudge GP (1983) The incidence and significance of ingested lead pellet poisoning in British wildfowl. Biol Conserv 27:333–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Scheuhammer AM (2003a) Wildlife toxicology of lead and transfer of lead to human consumers of wild foods. Health Canada toxic substances research initiative #52 extended in litt.
  22. Sheuhammer AM, Bond DE, Burgess NM, Rodrigue J (2003b) Lead and stable lead isotope ratios in soil, earthworms and bones of American woodcock (Scolopax minor) from eastern Canada. Environ Toxicol Chem 22:2585–2591CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tegetmeier WB (1881) Pheasants: their natural history and practical management. Field Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Watson M (2004) The effects of raptors on grey partridge populations. DPhil Thesis, University of OxfordGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Game Conservancy TrustFordingbridgeUK

Personalised recommendations