'Awful' Photo Shows Bird Feeding Chick A Cigarette Butt

A photographer has pleaded with smokers to clean up after themselves after capturing a heartbreaking photo of a bird feeding its chick a cigarette butt on a Florida beach.

The black skimmer bird was snapped passing the discarded butt onto its tiny chick on Monday afternoon.

The photographer, Karen Mason, uploaded the image to Facebook that day.

"If you smoke, please don't leave your butts behind," she wrote.

Photo: Karen Catbird via Facebook

A short time later Mason uploaded a second photo showing the same baby bird running away with the butt wedged between its beak looking ready to swallow.

"This skimmer chick was offered a cigarette butt by its parent," she wrote. "It’s time we cleaned up our beaches and stopped treating them like one giant ashtray".

Her posts have since been shared hundreds of times, with many followers responding with outrage.

"Terrible and very sad," one user said.

"People are disgusting! They don't want their butts, as if we do! Time to ban them, everywhere!" said another.

"This is awful, poor birds just don’t know," a third responded.

Photo: Karen Catbird via Facebook

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Close to six trillion cigarettes are manufactured around the world each year and about two-thirds of butts are dumped irresponsibly, according to the World Health Organisation.

Seven billion of those are dropped on the ground in Australia each year, resulting in butts being the most reported litter item across the country.

Because they contain fibrous plastic material, it can take up to 12 months for a single butt to break down in fresh water, five years in saltwater.

While they can become diluted, stubs can never fully degrade.

Most contain toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead, arsenic and zinc, which can prove fatal if consumed by animals.

So, if you're a smoker, authorities globally are urging you to ensure they're placed in a bin.