Rainbow lorikeet deaths in Melbourne

Over the last few months, wild rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) have been found dead or sick in the eastern and north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne in a band from Reservoir to Glen Waverly.

According to the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, at one site, over 32 deaths were recorded. Sick birds have shown signs including diarrhoea, vomiting, regurgitation, and lethargy.

Birds have tested negative for diseases including avian influenza, Newcastle disease, avian paramyxovirus, salmonellosis and psittacosis, and investigations are ongoing.

The department notes that the most likely cause is necrotic enteritis, resulting from overgrowth of Clostridium perfringens in the bowel, resulting from hand and supplementary feeding.

As the disease is spread through droppings from sick birds, it can easily be passed onto healthy birds congregated at feeding sites. Feeding of wild lorikeets is therefore not recommended as it can be a danger to their health and there is a plentiful supply of their usual diet of flowering plants and insects.

As any sick or dead birds can potentially be a health risk to people, the department recommends that dead birds can be collected by using a plastic bag as a glove, and wrapping the bag around the bird without touching it. They should be double bagged and then placed in the domestic rubbish. Dead birds should not be buried as dogs or cats may dig them up.

For more information or to report dead or sick rainbow lorikeets contact Wildlife Health Surveillance Victoria, by email pamw@unimelb.edu.au or on 0400 119 301.

Anne Jackson
Editor in Chief

This story appears in the June 2012 issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal

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