105 birds found dead in streets of quiet Victorian town: 'HORRIFIC'

·Environment Editor
·3-min read

WARNING - CONFRONTING IMAGES: More than a hundred corellas have been found dead at a Victorian Murray River border town, with authorities working to determine if it was a mass poisoning.

All were found to be bleeding internally, indicating they may have consumed an anticoagulant rodent control bait, or a corrosive substance.

The long-beaked corellas, a protected species, were found on Wednesday in the town of Barmah, in close proximity to grain farms and a national park.

105 dead corellas in a pile at night.
A wildlife rescuer has collected the bodies of 105 corellas after a suspected mass poisoning. Source: Bohollow Wildlife Shelter / Kirsty Ramadan

Images taken across a two-square-kilometre area, and shared by Bohollow Wildlife Shelter’s Kirsty Ramadan show the ground stained with blood.

Several other birds were discovered disorientated and suffering from severe dehydration, trying desperately to rehydrate themselves by drinking from puddles.

Rat poison frequently kills tawny frogmouths, owls and raptors.
Rat poison frequently kills tawny frogmouths, owls and raptors.

“They were so disorientated that they either just died in the puddles, or in rivers or creeks,” Ms Ramadan said.

“Others just fell from the sky, it’s just horrific.

“I saw one flying over the Murray while I was searching, and the poor thing fell from a great height as it was crossing the river and was dead when it hit the water.”

Victoria's Conservation Regulator confirmed it is investigating the corella deaths and working to determine a cause.

They have linked previous bird deaths to the consumption of poisoned grain but also illness, including Psittacine beak and feather disease.

Convictions in relation to intentional poisoning of native birds in Australia are rare.

Birds dying standing up after suspected mass poisoning

Parrots including cockatoos, galahs and corellas are found poisoned each year in regional towns across Australia. Yahoo News Australia is not alleging the deaths are linked in any way.

The most recent mass bird death incident was first noticed on Saturday, as reports came through from members of the public concerned about dead galahs found at a park in nearby Numurkah.

Four days later, Ms Ramadan was called to Barmah to investigate what a member of public thought was just five more dead birds.

She quickly realised there was many more and something was “seriously wrong”.

Dead and dying corellas in a puddle
Birds were excessively drinking and bleeding internally. Source: Bohollow Wildlife Shelter / Kirsty Ramadan
Dead corellas across a field.
Corellas had died standing upright in puddles across a two square kilometre area. Source: Bohollow Wildlife Shelter / Kirsty Ramadan

Corellas were lying dead across the surrounding streets and bushland, and retrieving the bodies took hours.

It was difficult to tell the living from the dead.

“A lot of them on the ground died standing up,” Ms Ramadan said.

“You don't realise that they're dead. They’re just standing up with their head bowed.

Sole surviving corella dies overnight in care

Working to investigate the cause, some of the dead were cut open, only to find severe haemorrhaging in their intestines.

Two images of dead corellas on the ground.
The streets were speckled with blood following the corella deaths. Source: Bohollow Wildlife Shelter / Kirsty Ramadan
Dead corellas were seen floating in the Murray River. Source: Bohollow Wildlife Shelter / Kirsty Ramadan
Dead corellas were seen floating in the Murray River. Source: Bohollow Wildlife Shelter / Kirsty Ramadan

Other than showing signs of poisoning, they were “perfectly healthy” and of good weight and size, indicating the toxicity occurred 24 to 48 hours before.

“All their crops are empty. So basically, it's making them feel that unwell they're not eating but they're just drinking,” she said.

“They were full of water to the point where they nearly aspirate themselves, because they just want to excessively drink because they're haemorrhaging.”

Only one bird survived long enough to make it back to Ms Ramadan’s sanctuary.

Anyone with information about this incident or cases of wildlife crime is urged to contact Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 333 000.

The Conservation Regulator takes all matters of wildlife crime seriously.

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