Ducks hit hard by bug

16:00, Feb 26 2014
Paralysed Ducks
VERY ILL: A large number of ducks have been paralysed by avian botulism.

A deadly outbreak of avian botulism is killing ducks and other birds in west and south Auckland.

Dozens of sick and dead ducks have been found in suburbs including Kelston, Glen Eden, New Lynn and Blockhouse Bay.

A Watercare spokesman says a number have also been found near the Mangere wastewater channel over the past week.

Paralysed Ducks
HEALING DUCKS: Lyn Macdonald is caring for ducks affected by avian botulism at the New Zealand Bird Rescue Charitable Trust.

Avian botulism is a bacterial toxin that thrives in still, shallow and warm water. It paralyses birds' heads and necks, and slowly spreads to the rest of the body ultimately killing them.

Humans are unable to contract the disease.

Lyn Macdonald runs the New Zealand Bird Rescue Charitable Trust in Green Bay and is caring for more than 70 ill ducks already.


Two paradise shelduck and a grey teal - both native and protected species - have died this week from the disease, she says, along with dozens of others.

"This botulism outbreak is going to go big on us. We are going to need a lot of community support to give every bird a fighting chance.

"Once the birds are paralysed, hawks and gulls start to circle and can eat the birds alive."

The hot weather has been a breeding ground for the toxin which often occurs in man-made ponds.

"It's not the birds' fault, it's a natural bug but it always happens in man-made ponds."

SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge says the disease outbreak occurs annually but some years are worse than others.

"It's a major concern. We do lose a lot of birds and it can strike anywhere.

"This year is looking to be quite bad and the birds are very vulnerable."

An Auckland Council spokesperson says people should avoid skin contact with affected birds and stop dogs from eating them.

"These issues are entirely natural and stop happening once the rain returns. In the meantime, Aucklanders are advised to look out for ill birds around waterways, and contact the SPCA, bird rescue centres or Auckland Council if they see what they suspect to be botulism."


The New Zealand Bird Rescue Charitable Trust urgently needs supplies and funds to help nurse birds affected by avian botulism.

Tarpaulins, paper towels and pillows and can be dropped to 74 Avonleigh Rd, Green Bay.

Go to if you wish to donate money to help with the cost of antibiotics and medicine to treat the disease. Contact Bird Rescue on 816 9219 or Auckland Council on 301 0101 if you find affected birds.

Western Leader