Authorities are investigating the deaths of more than 100 native parrots discovered in a regional Victorian town after wildlife workers alerted it to a possible poisoning event.
Kirsty Ramadan of the Bohollow Wildlife Shelter said she was called out to the Barmah in north-west Victoria to collect what she thought would be a few sick birds. She was confronted with 106 corellas.
“I quickly realised once I started scouting out around the town there were dozens upon dozens of dead or dying birds in the bushland and on the riverbanks,” Ms Ramadan told the ABC.
She said one of the birds was taken to a veterinarian in Echuca, who found possible evidence of poisoning.
“We opened up the bird and inside it had haemorrhaged along the entire intestine,” Ms Ramadan said.
“We opened up the gizzard to get a sample of what they consumed and inside was a green stain, which is indicative of rodent poisons.”
The Victorian Conservation Regulator is investigating the exact cause of the birds’ death and whether they were the result of disease or human intervention.
Ms Ramadan, posting on the Bohollow Wildlife Shelter Facebook page last week, said the group had also been receiving reports of numerous dead birds in Apex Park and surrounding streets in Numurkah – most of them galahs.
“We have suspected poisoning and we see this quite a bit in this area,” she said, adding that in the past some grain companies and farmers have laid out laced grain to poison birds.
“Sometimes the target species is introduced pigeons who frequent silo yards as they exist on the spilt grain from the trucks,” the post said.
“Of course, not only the pigeons consume this, any other seed eating bird or animal will also have a feed.”
While authorities do not want to rule out the possibility of diseases that affect native birds – including psittacine beak and feather disease – the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has acknowledged that native birds could be attracted to poisoned grain intended to kill rodents.
Native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975.
Killing native birds or being in possession of them without the appropriate licence or authority carries a maximum penalty of up to $39,652 and two years imprisonment.
Farmworker Murray James Silvester was jailed for 14 days and fined $2500 in 2018 after being found guilty of poisoning some 406 wedge-tailed eagles at three remote properties in Victoria’s east over two years.
In 2020, a Violet Town woman in the state’s north east was charged over the death of more than 140 protected birds, most of them wedge-tailed eagles.
A spokesperson for the Conservation Regulator urged anyone with information about Barmah incident to contact Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 333 000.