By Melissa Donchi
17th July 2007 02:00:21 AM
AUSTRALIAN King parrots are fighting for their lives after a nasty strain of spironucleus has seen the usually excitable birds turn limp and lifeless.
Spironucleus is a one-cell parasite, which lives and multiplies in the bird’s stomach eating away at the lining of its bowel until the bird becomes too weak to fly and eventually dies.
Rupert Baker is a senior veterinarian at the Healesville Sanctuary and says it is an all too familiar scene in winter.
“Each year at Healesville Sanctuary when the weather gets cold we are presented with several thin and sick young Australian King parrots,” Mr Baker said.
“Recently, in just one week we had 20 birds brought to us from Healesville, Warburton, Gembrook and other locations and they are still arriving.”
Mr Baker said the disease was treatable and could be prevented by more vigilant housekeeping.
“Birds with spironucleus will shed the parasite in their droppings which is why we need people with birdfeeders to regularly clean out the surface with a scrubbing brush to prevent the parasite passing between birds,” he said.
“This should be done initially with soapy water and a stiff scrubbing brush and then dilute with a little bleach.”
Another good reason to clean the bird feeder is that birds can carry other diseases that can affect humans, such as salmonella, E. coli, chlamydia and giarda.
“So, when cleaning your bird feeder be sure to use gloves and wash your hands afterwards,” Mr Baker said.
Mr Baker said other safer ways to attracting birds to the garden include planting endemic native plants, providing water in summer and leaving fallen wood as habitat.