World

'Heartbreaking': Bird photographed feeding chick cigarette butt

A wildlife photographer captured the moment on a Florida beach in the United States. Source: Karen Mason

A photo of a bird passing a cigarette to its chick has captured the world's attention, with many on social media labelling the image heartbreaking.

The wildlife photographer who took a photo of a bird passing a cigarette to its chick shared it with an urgent message.

“If you smoke, please don’t leave your butts behind,” Karen Mason wrote on Facebook.

The picture of the black skimmer bird feeding its chick a cigarette filter was taken on a Florida beach in the United States.

It has drawn an emotional response from many.

A black skimmer feeding its chick a cigarette filter.
A black skimmer feeding its chick a cigarette filter.
Karen Mason

In another photo, the chick is seen carrying the cigarette filter in its mouth.

Ms Mason said both photos were captured at St Pete Beach, on Florida's mid-west coast.

“This skimmer chick was offered a cigarette butt by it’s parent,” Ms Mason said.

“It’s time we cleaned up our beaches and stopped treating them like one giant ashtray.”

The images have been described as heartbreaking on social media.
The images have been described as heartbreaking on social media.
Karen Mason

Many on social media labelled the scene a distressing sight.

One user on Facebook called the picture "absolutely disheartening." 

Another said: "this really breaks my heart."

Celebrity Pamela Anderson also sharing the post online,

"If you smoke, please don't leave your butts behind - birds can mistake the filters for food."

Cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded piece of waste globally, according to the World Health Organisation.

There are around 6 trillion cigarettes manufactured annually.

In Australia, close to seven billion cigarette buds are discarded each year, again making them the most littered item, according to Waste Management Australia. 

The butts are made up of a type of plastic fibres (cellulose acetate) and can take years to break down.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch