Artifact Ingestion by Swans

Principal Investigator
Jenna Bowen, Honors Student

Dr. Scott Petrie, Long Point Waterfowl Executive Director

Although lead poisoning is common in swans, no information exists on the prevalence of lead artifact ingestion in swans using the Lower Great Lakes. We examined artifact ingestion (lead and non-toxic) in Mute Swans Cygnus olor and Tundra Swans Cygnus columbianus collected on the Lower Great Lakes in Ontario (1999–2003) following the 1999 ban on use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in Canada. A larger proportion of Mute Swans (19.8% of 243 birds) contained artifacts than did Tundra Swans (6.5% of 77 birds), possibly due to the fact that Mute Swans feed exclusively in aquatic habitats. Overall, 14% of Mute Swans contained nontoxic shot, 6% contained lead shot and 1.6% contained fishing tackle; 4% of Tundra Swans contained non-toxic shot and 2.6% contained lead shot. Adult Mute Swans (22.7%) had a higher incidence of artifact ingestion than did cygnets (8.9%), but there were no age-related differences in Tundra Swans. No sex-related differences in artifact ingestion were detected in either species. Given the overall frequency of shot ingestion in Mute Swans (20% of birds), lead toxicosis probably was a significant mortality factor for this species on the Lower Great Lakes before the lead shot ban. As only 1.6% of Mute Swans and no Tundra Swans contained any form of fishing tackle, angling related injuries and mortalities are likely lower in the Lower Great Lakes than has been reported for swans in Europe. Presently, lead toxicosis is likely having a low to moderate effect on Mute Swans and a minimal effect on Tundra Swans on the Lower Great Lakes.

To read Jenna’s paper on incidence of artifact ingestion in Mute Swans and Tundra Swans on the lower Great Lakes, Canada click here

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