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Aucklanders Are Advised To Look Out For Sick Birds In Parks During The Warmer Months

BirdCare Aotearoa wild bird hospital advises that avian botulism is affecting birdlife earlier than usual this year, due to unseasonably warm weather.

Mallard ducks, duckling and signet with botulism resting at BirdCare Aotearoa. Photo by Dr Lynn Miller - BirdCare Aotearoa General Manager

General Manager of BirdCare Aotearoa Dr Lynn Miller says “If you enjoy spending time in parks, particularly those with ponds or lakes, please look out for birds which look unwell or listless, especially during the warmer months”

“Several ducks and ducklings, including natives, along with kakīānau/black swans and signets have already been admitted for treatment ahead of the summer season. Botulism can also affect other native and endemic birds such as dabchicks, coots, pūkeko, kōtare, herons, shags, gulls, pied stilts, and oystercatchers” says Miller

Avian botulism is caused by a waterborne bacterium which occurs naturally in many wetlands but becomes activated when the water temperature rises. It causes paralysis, leaving the bird prone to predator attacks, parasites, and suffocation or drowning.

To help prevent botulism and keep birds safe Birdcare Aoteraoa wants the public to not be tempted to feed waterfowl such as ducks, swans or geese at parks, as this can cause overpopulation and pollution. Feeding on the water results in some food sinking to the bottom and creating conditions for the disease to thrive. Bread is also unhealthy for birds and can cause malnutrition issues for them. There is plenty of natural food available in parks, which is much healthier for birdlife.

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Under the expert leadership of internationally experienced wildlife rehabilitator Dr Lynn Miller, BirdCare Aotearoa is the world leader in the treatment of botulism, successful in releasing around 95% of birds which are able to survive after the first 24 hours.

If you find a sick or injured bird at a park and are safely able to rescue it, please take it to BirdCare Aotearoa

between 8am and 3pm, or a vet clinic, or your local wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible for treatment. If you find a dead bird at a park or a sick bird you can’t safely rescue, please call your local council or SPCA.

The process of saving birds, while very rewarding, is also expensive. As a charitable organisation which receives no government funding, BirdCare Aotearoa currently relies on donations and grants to operate. However, with rising costs of treatment and care, and admission rates increasing around 20% every year, the centre is now also appealing to the business sector for partnerships and sponsorships to help continue its world-class care of rescued wild birds.

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