Waterfowl managers first recognized the problem of lead poisoning in ducks from the ingestion of spent lead shot (pellets) over 100 years ago. The phase-out of lead shot for waterfowl hunting began in the Atlantic Flyway in the 1970s. Lead shot was subsequently banned throughout the United States and Canada prior to 2000. We compared blood-lead levels in American black ducks Anas rubripes wintering in coastal New Jersey in 1978, prior to the lead ban, and in 2017, about 39 years after lead shot was first banned for use in Atlantic coastal marshes and 27 years after it was banned for waterfowl hunting in New Jersey. The prevalence of blood-lead > 0.2 ppm, a level commonly used to indicate lead exposure, declined nearly four-fold from 1978 (79%) to 2017 (20%). We found no significant differences in the prevalence of birds with blood-lead levels > 0.2 ppm between sexes in either year or between age classes in 2017. The prevalence of ducks with blood-lead levels > 1.0 ppm, considered clinically evident toxicity, declined from 19% in 1978 to 1% in 2017. Our study provides further evidence that the ban on the use of lead shot over 20 years ago throughout North America has resulted in lower blood-lead levels in waterfowl. Notwithstanding, we still found evidence of lead exposure in black ducks in 2017, which warrants further investigation.

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