North American Crane Working Group


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Snyder, S.B., M.J. Richard, J.P Thilsted, R.C. Drewien, and J.C. Lewis. Lead poisoning in a whooping crane. In: Wood D. A., ed. 1992. Proceedings 1988 North American Crane Workshop, Feb. 22–24, 1988. Lake Wales, Florida (Tallahassee, FL: State of Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission Nongame Wildlife Program Technical Report #12, 1992), pp. 207-210.


Used by permission of the North American Crane Working Group.


The first known incident of lead poisoning in a whooping crane (Grus americana) occurred as the affected bird completed its second migration from Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Idaho to Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico. It fell ill about 4 1/2 weeks after reaching the winter site and was captured. The bird exhibited signs of anorexia and starvation, weakness with drooped wings, greenish watery diarrhea and an unusual gaping of the mouth with abnormal swallowing motions. Blood showed marked polychromasia (>50%) and reticulocytosis (>80%) of RBC's. Serum chemistry values were not diagnostic. A radiograph showed the gizzard contained material more dense than normal grit. Blood lead levels were 566 mg/dl (5.66 ppm). The bird died after 48 hours in captivity, failing to respond to supportive care and chelation (1 injection of calcium verso nate @35 mg/kg 1M). At necropsy the gizzard contained approximately 890 tiny lead particles (8.35 g) as well as many particles of plastic and aluminum. Liver lead levels were 24 ppm (wet basis), and kidney 10.4 ppm (wet basis). The source of the ingested lead was thought to be a small plastic encased battery or fishing sinker or similar object. The crane had also been shot with a shotgun sometime previously, but this was not the cause of death.