Heavy metals in soft tissue of white-tailed eagles found dead or moribund in Germany and Austria from 1993 to 2000



Residues of the potentially toxic metals lead, mercury, and cadmium were analyzed in liver and kidney tissue of 61 free-ranging white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) found dead or moribund in Germany and Austria between 1993 and 2000. Highest values and the widest range were detected for lead in liver and for mercury in kidney tissue. Lead concentrations considered to induce lethal lead poisoning (>5 ppm wet wt) were determined in 28% of liver samples. Lead fragments were detected in the gizzards of two specimens, presumably having died from lead intoxication. Histopathological findings in a recently dead white-tailed eagle indicating acute lead exposure comprise degenerative Purkinje cells in the cerebrellum and inclusion bodies in renal tubular cells. Mercury residues in organs are decreasing compared to former studies in periods when organomercury compounds were used as seed dressing. All cadmium values were low or are at background levels in white-tailed eagles. The present study clearly identifies lead as a toxic metal poison in white-tailed eagles in Germany and Austria.