Bread a threat to birds

City of Belmont co-ordinator of Environment Nicole Davey at Tomato Lake. Picture: Elle Borgward www.communitypix.com.au d418064
City of Belmont co-ordinator of Environment Nicole Davey at Tomato Lake. Picture: Elle Borgward www.communitypix.com.au d418064

City of Belmont Mayor Phil Marks said the age-old practice of feeding bread to ducks at the local park must end.

Avian botulism causes progressive weakness, paralysis and death in water birds.

The naturally occurring bacteria thrives in stagnant water with high nutrient levels.

‘The bread fed to birds contains between one and two grams of phosphorus, enough to make a volume of lake water the size of a backyard swimming pool nutrient rich,’ Cr Marks said.

‘We are encouraging the community to help prevent avian botulism by not feeding birds.

‘Feeding wildlife can upset the balance of nature and is one of the contributing factors that causes high nutrient levels in waterways.’

The South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare, on its website, also discourages feeding birds.

‘Don’t feed bread to the birds. It is unhealthy for the birds and the water,’ its website reads.

Dead water birds were collected from Monday last week and the lake is being checked regularly by City of Belmont staff.

Affected birds will immediately be removed from the lake and tube fed to flush toxins from their systems.

Humans and pets are not at risk unless they ingest fish or birds contaminated with the toxin.

But the city’s information sheet on avian botulism says possible exposure could occur through open wounds and contact with lake edges that could be exposed to high amounts of the bacteria.

In the event of a cut or graze, antiseptic measures should be applied and the wound cleaned and any medical symptoms reported immediately to a doctor or hospital.

People who spot sick or dead water birds at local parks over the next few weeks are asked to call the city’s parks and environment department on 9477 7257.