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Help us fight avian botulism

Published: 16 January 2020

During the warmer summer months, ducks and other waterfowl at parks and waterways across Auckland can succumb to avian botulism, a bacterial disease which lives in soil and can cause the death of water-based birds.

Auckland Council Delivery Business manager Sam Pohiva says:

“This is a reoccurring issue for many of the parks around Auckland. Avian botulism spores exist in lakes and ponds and thrive when temperatures rise and oxygen levels drop. Ducks ingest the bacteria when they feed. 

"The disease causes paralysis to the ducks and, depending on toxicity levels, death. It does not affect humans, cats or dogs.

“Though the disease can affect a variety of birdlife, ducks and swans are more susceptible.

“To counter avian botulism, we are increasing the installation of barley bales in affected ponds to reduce algae growth and improve water quality, and are regularly monitoring sites where there have been issues in the past.

“We will also be installing signs at affected parks to educate park users about avian botulism, and to encourage them not to feed ducks bread – especially in the water. It is better to encourage ducks to forage for their food naturally. Alternately, ducks should be fed on the grass away from the lakes and with grain and seeds rather than bread.”

How you can help

  • Avoid feeding the ducks, it is better to encourage them to forage naturally
  • Don’t feed the ducks bread, it can rot in ponds and promote the growth of botulism bacteria
  • If you do feed the birds, seeds and grains are best for their diet
  • Pick up your pet’s waste and dispose of it properly
  • Call the council when you see a sick or dead duck or swan
  • Share this message with friends and family.

To read more about Avian botulism download the Avian Botulism Information PDF.

Read more: Environment Parks

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