Conservation & aesthetics

Dead Rainbow Lorikeet

Dead Rainbow Lorikeet

Yesterday a huge flock of “Rosellas” flew over the house. They’re really Rainbow Lorikeets, but it’s my generic term for smallish brightly coloured Australian birds, especially seen in the distance. These gorgeous creatures usually come and sit in the Liquidambar tree next door and strip it of seeds (or something since they’re not supposed to like seeds) in a day or two, meanwhile posing for the occasional photograph.

I always love to see the birds arrive and thought no further about them until I went out to the road to move my car back into the driveway. there on the ground was a poor little bird struggling in the dust on the edge of the footpath, trying to pull itself along by pecking at the ground- to no avail. I didn’t know what had affected it, but I carefully picked it up and got an old cat cage out of the carport to provide a safe resting place until it recovered (I thought).

Again- out to move the car, but- another bird on the ground! This time it was well and truly deceased- the ants had started; so I placed it in our garden while I planned on its disposal.

Underwing colours- superb

Underwing colours- superb

After the car was safely in the driveway, I returned to the live bird. It had climbed up the side of the cage and looked lively. However, when I placed some sunflower seed and water inside with it, it just dropped dead! Sad. I imagined I was helping conserve this bird, even though with thousands around, I guess this one didn’t need my charity. Sadly we bundled both birds into a bag, sealed it and placed it in the garbage bin.

When I hopped onto the internet to verify my identification of the birds, I discovered they were indeed Rainbow Lorikeets and additionally that most lorikeets eat only nectar and occasionally binge on fruit- not usually eating seeds. However, the Rainbow Lorikeet is known to accept seeds, especially sunflower ones. Reading further about the birds, I saw an article about a strange disease noted in Australian bird colonies-

Here’s an extract from the above extract:

“Rigid legs/clenched feet — this is a reasonably common problem with all lorikeets. The bird is unable to perch or stand and therefore cannot fly. I have not been able to discover the cause of this condition but feel it is a secondary problem caused by kidney infection. This is purely supposition, but in the absence of other explanations I treat in the following way. Firstly, it is important, as in the treatment of a swollen chest, that the bird is kept erect and not allowed to lie on its chest. It will require hand feeding and a course of antibiotics to counter the infection. I massage the stiff legs and gently open the feet, letting them close around my finger. I then am able to stretch the legs and bend them at the joints. When this physiotherapy is showing signs of success I place the bird in a cage with narrow bars laid on its side to give a ‘ladder’ for the bird to climb and thus exercise the legs. Improvement can be slow but 1 have released birds that have recovered from this condition. If, however, after three days there is still no sign of movement in the legs or feet, the condition is unlikely to respond-to treatment.” [Accessed at http://www.birdcare.asn.au/pdf/loris.pdf]

Gorgeous colours, red beak

Gorgeous colours, red beak

Both the birds I had “rescued” had this peculiar back-stretching of the legs and such tightly balled up feet/claws that I could not unfurl them even though they weren’t in rigor mortis. I’m used to seeing a dead bird assume the pathetic “feet in the air” posture, with legs projecting straight up with gently relaxed claws, not this weird stiff pose. I wonder if these birds were suffering the odd disease mentioned by the Bird Network? I thought they had merely flown into power lines and been stunned, then fallen.

If anyone has any ideas, please comment. I’m puzzled, though not necessarily hugely distressed. What is killing the cute little creatures that I’m so used to seeing all around the Unley High School [yes, Julia Gillard’s school is just over the main road] and the conservation area next door?

While researching this post I came across another blog post that was very appreciative of Rainbow Lorikeets, much to my delight! See:

Think & Be Inspired’s post at:

http://www.thinkandbeinspired.com/2011/07/a-group-of-rosella-birds-taught-me-a-valuable-lesson-today/

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