Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning is one of the most common types of poisoning in falcons. There are 2 reasons for falcon lead poisoning;

  • The first reason is hunting a falcon with a rifle - exposing them to a non fatal injury. The pellets that are not removed and remain inside the falcon can lead to lead poisoning.
  • The second reason that can lead to lead poisoning is using birds or rodents to feed the falcon that still contained the pellets from the rifle that was used to hunt them.

Lead poisoning can be divided into 2 groups;

  1. Acute
  2. Chronic

This classification depends on the following factors;

  1. The amount of lead ingested
  2. The duration the lead pellets remain in the body
  3. The amount of lead in the blood

Symptoms: The diseased falcon can show the following symptoms

General symptoms

  1. Weakness & lethargy
  2. Loss of weight
  3. Loss of appetite

Digestive symptoms

  1. Delay in food digestion
  2. Diarrhoea
  3. Food regurgitation
  4. Dark coloured faeces

Neurological symptoms

  1. Irregular falcon movements
  2. Tremor’s and irregular head movements
  3. Deviation of the head to one side
  4. The falcon walks in a circular path
  5. Slouching wings
  6. Blindness
  7. Convulsions and muscular twitches
  8. Leg and / or wing paralysis (severe cases)


  1. Taking history of the falcon, enquiring about the food presented and how it was hunted in addition to observing the symptoms being shown by the falcon.
  2. Using x-ray investigation to see if any bullets or pellets – usually found in the digestive system or in the muscles.
  3. Laboratory investigation by having blood test and measuring the amount of lead in the blood.


Treatment of lead poisoning depends on the following:

  • Position of the lead pellet
  • Intensity of the condition

In many situations the pellets can be removed by surgical intervention if surgery will not endanger the life of the falcon.

In case the pellet is in the stomach it can be removed by stomach lavage.

The extraction of the pellets can be removed through the faeces by giving the falcon plenty of fibre or paraffin oil. In general giving nutritional fluids with glucose and vitamins will help with the recovery of the affected falcon. In addition to that there is plenty lead reducing medicine available in the veterinary hospital.