Karen Mason was taking photographs on the beach in St. Pete Beach, Florida recently. When she got home she noticed something very disturbing on one of the photos.
“I happened to see this one parent feeding her chick. I knew it wasn’t a fish but didn’t realize it was a cigarette butt until I blew it up on my home computer,” Mason said.
The birds that she photographed are black skimmers. Mason volunteers for the Audobon Society. “I go out a couple of times a week to educate the public about the skimmers,” Mason explained. “I always take my camera as I am an avid photographer.”
The photograph that she took has motivated Mason to educate the public about the hazards of trash such as cigarette butts left on the beach.”I was enraged just seeing that poor chick carrying that thing around that I sent it to several wildlife groups I belong to,” Mason said.
Cigarette Butts Leak Toxins Into The Environment And Ultimately Into Animals
Approximately 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered across the world each year. Cigarette butts are a more abundant form of litter than plastic. The butts take many years to decompose. They can leak toxins into the environment as they break down.
This mother bird might have mistaken the harmful cigarette butt for a fish. She then carried it to feed to her young. This is very sad. Mason wants to encourage people to throw their cigarette butts away.
No one will know what happened after Mason snapped this photograph. Did the baby bird swallow the cigarette? We can only hope that she didn’t. “I do not know if [the chick] ate it,” Mason said. “A lot of times I have seen them with a piece of wood, and they just hold it for a while and then put it down. I’m hoping that’s what he did.”