To provide fundamental knowledge for studying the relative content of vacant sites and exploring the mechanism of interaction between Pb2+ and birnessite, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) of birnessites with different Mn average oxidation states (AOS) before and after Pb2+ adsorption were investigated. The number of absorption bands of FTIR spectra was determined by using the second derivatives of the original spectra. The band at 899–920 cm–1 was assigned to the bending vibration of -OH located at vacancies. The bands at 1059–1070, 1115–1124 and 1165–1171 cm–1 could be attributed to the vibrations of Mn(III)-OH in MnO6 layers, and the intensities of these bands increased with decreasing Mn AOS. The bands at 990 and 1023–1027 cm–1 were ascribed to the vibrations of Mn(III)-OH in the interlayers. Mn(III) in MnO6 layers partially migrated to interlayers during Pb2+ adsorption, which led to an increased intensity of the band at 990 cm–1. The band at 564–567cm–1 was assigned to the vibration of Mn-O located at vacancies. This band could split by coupling of vibrations due to Pb2+ and/or Mn2+ adsorbed at vacant sites. The large distance between the band at 610–626 cm–1 and that at 638–659 cm–1 might reflect small Mn(III) ions located in Mn(III)-rich rows.