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Lead poisoning is top threat to endangered California condor

California condors face a number of threats that have caused their population levels to dwindle to near-extinction, but a recent study found that lead poisoning is one of the biggest issues these birds face, Oregon Live reports.

Scientists from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research documented condor deaths at all sites where captive-bred birds were released into the wild in a reintroduction program designed to save the species. In Central and Northern California, Arizona and Northern Mexico, the researchers attributed 70 percent of condor mortalities to human influences, the news outlet reports.

Condor chicks are most threatened by microtrash that their parents mistake for calcium-rich mollusk shells, while juveniles, between the ages of 6 months to 5 years, risk lead poisoning after ingesting spent ammunition from hunters who fail to bury the carcasses of killed game.

Previous research had indicated that wind mills were a massive threat to North America's largest bird, Forbes reports. However, this study found that lead poisoning in particular accounted for 67 percent of all adult condor deaths and 26 percent of juvenile fatalities, because the birds only feed on meat that is already dead. 
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