Rainbow lorikeet deaths in Melbourne
Since early March 2012, wild rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) have been reported as dead or sick at a number of sites in the eastern and north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. See Figure 1 below. At one site, over 32 deaths were recorded. Sick birds have shown signs such as diarrhoea, vomiting, regurgitation, and lethargy. In some cases, hand feeding of lorikeets has occurred at the sites.
Investigations have been undertaken by veterinary staff at the University of Melbourne Faculty of Veterinary Science and Victorian Department of Primary Industries.
Figure 1. Location of rainbow lorikeet deaths in Melbourne between 9 March and 1 June 2012
Locations include: Armadale, Balwyn, Blackburn, Box Hill, Box Hill North, Burwood East, Canterbury, Carnegie, Croydon, Dandenong, Doncaster, Donvale, Eltham, Ferntree Gully, Forest Hill, Glen Waverly, Hadfield, Mitcham, North Melbourne, Reservoir, Rosanna, Rowville, Scoresby, Templestowe, Vermont South, Warrandyte, Wheelers Hill and Yallambie.
At this stage, a bacterial infection of the bowel, known as necrotic enteritis, is believed to be the most likely cause. Birds have tested negative for other possible diseases, such as avian influenza, Newcastle disease, avian paramyxovirus, salmonellosis and psittacosis. Investigations are however ongoing.
This disease is believed to result from overgrowth of a bacterium (Clostridium perfringens) in the bowel, resulting from hand and supplementary feeding. Lorikeets have a simple digestive system that is well suited to their natural diet.
As this disease is spread in droppings from sick birds, it can easily be passed onto healthy birds congregated at feeding sites. Because of this, feeding of birds is not recommended and can in fact be a danger to their health. There are many flowering plants, as well other sources of food such as insects, available for lorikeets without the need to provide additional food. Further information about the dangers of feeding lorikeets is available.
Disposing of dead birds
Any sick or dead birds can potentially be a health risk to people so it is important to dispose of carcasses appropriately. Dead birds can be collected by using a plastic bag as a glove, and wrapping the bag around the bird without touching it (the same way as picking up dog faeces). Dead birds 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.
After handling dead or sick birds, always wash hands with soapy water, and if you wish, use an alcohol wipe as well.
Further information or reporting cases
Please contact Wildlife Health Surveillance Victoria by email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0400 119 301 for further information or to report dead/sick rainbow lorikeets. Your reports will assist with further investigations into this disease.