Glasgow swans suffering from '˜pink feather syndrome'

A GROUP of swans has turned pink because they were being fed mouldy white bread by visitors in a popular Glasgow park.
Picture: Toby Williams/TSPLPicture: Toby Williams/TSPL
Picture: Toby Williams/TSPL

Ruth Campbell was left stunned when she spotted pink discolouration on the birds’ feathers as she was making her way through the area.

It was only after she reported the strange sight that she realised the birds were suffering from pink feather syndrome.

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The pink colour is caused by bacteria that comes from people feeding the swans mouldy bread.

It comes from white bread in particular, which the birds find difficult to digest.

The syndrome affects the swans’ immune system and waterproofing, meaning they cannot swim or feed properly, and can even die of hunger.

Rita spotted the birds in Glasgow’s Victoria Park.

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She then contacted the rangers at Pollok Park who told her the swans could be treated by washing them in Fairy Liquid.

The worst affected birds will be taken to Hessilhead Wildlife Sanctuary near Beith, Ayrshire, to be treated before being released into the wild.

Jackie Clark, Glasgow City Council countryside ranger, said: “It’s highly unlikely people are intentionally feeding the swans mouldy bread.

“However, it is important for the public and visitors to our parks to be aware of the potential dangers of overfeeding.

“We work closely with the friends of groups and are in regular contact with staff at Hessilhead so we know the signs.

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“The mould on white bread is really the main thing to look out for if you are feeding the swans.

“Brown bread and defrosted peas are good sources of food for swans and pose far less risk to their health than white bread.

“Swans continually preen themselves which keeps the feathers in shape and waterproofed.

“However, the fungus on the bread finds its way on to the swan’s body by the beak passing the fungus on to the feathers.

“The environment the swan lives in appears to allow the fungus to thrive causing the pink colour on their body, brittle feathers and reducing the waterproof coating, allowing the feathers to get waterlogged causing hypothermia, loss of weight and sometimes death.”