Ducks fed human food die of poisoning


More than 63 native birds have died of botulism in the past two weeks at the Shearwater Wetland in Balcatta.
More than 63 native birds have died of botulism in the past two weeks at the Shearwater Wetland in Balcatta.

MORE than 63 native birds have been poisoned in the past two weeks in a food poisoning “epidemic” at Spoonbill-Shearwater Wetland in Balcatta.

City of Stirling parks and reserves manager Ian Hunter said there were about 200 bird deaths each year at Stirling reserves because botulism bacteria in “human food” fed to native birds.

“Most of the food sinks to the bottom, where bacteria rapidly multiply in the food and it becomes poisonous,” Mr Hunter said.

“Ducks scavenge for the food a few days later and contract botulism.”

Mr Hunter said birds that contracted botulism died a gruesome death, with symptoms including paralysis of the head and legs and dehydration.

“Paralysis causes the head to droop to the front or side and the bird is unable to run away when approached by people or predators,” he said.

“The majority of cases do not survive as the poison acts quickly and they tend to hide when sick, making it very difficult to rescue and diagnose them.”

A Balcatta resident, who did not want to be named, told the Stirling Times he often saw residents feeding ducks and birds, despite signage warning against it, when he walked his dog at Roselea Estate Lake.

“When you sit here the ducks and other birds come straight up to you because they are expecting to be fed,” he said.

“They are used to it, they are so tame.”

Mr Hunter described the situation as “very urgent” and said the City had installed several signs alerting people to the dangers of feeding birds.