KCDC media release


Kāpiti Coast District Council is again advising people to keep away from dead birds in or near waterways in the district.

Signs of avian botulism, a disease that causes paralysis and death in birds, have been identified in a number of ducks and seagulls at Waikanae Beach’s Pharazyn Reserve.

“Birds affected with avian botulism typically show signs of paralysis, are unable to fly, and have drooping heads. Wild and captive bird populations, most notably waterfowl, can contract the disease, but it does not cross over to human beings,” says Council Biodiversity Programme Manager Rob Cross.

Mr Cross says the disease is spread to other birds through the carcasses of those killed by avian botulism, and can make dogs and cats sick if they eat a dead bird infected with the disease.

“Anyone who sees a dead bird in the reserve area is strongly advised not to touch it – they should inform the Council so our staff can remove them and dispose of the carcasses safely.”

Health authorities say avian botulism is unlikely to pose a threat to humans, but can be passed onto cats and dogs. Mr Cross says that pet owners should be vigilant and watch that their pets don’t go near any bird carcasses.

Most outbreaks of avian botulism occur during summer when there is less oxygen in waterways due to lower water levels. This causes decaying plant growth and the perfect microclimate for the toxin to occur. Outbreaks are managed through the removal of infected carcasses and, once cooler weather comes, the disease generally runs its course.

Anyone who sees sick birds at Council reserves, as opposed to those that have already died, should inform the Kapiti SPCA.