Poster Presentation 64th International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association 2015

Investigating regent parrot declines in South Australia – biomedical survey and telemetry studies. (#172)

David J McLelland 1 , Ellen Ryan-Colton 2 , Luke Ireland 2 , Matthew Humphrey 2 , Chris Hedger 2
  1. Zoos South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia
  2. Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Government of South Australia, Berri, SA, Australia

The eastern regent parrot (Polytelis anthopeplus monarchoides) is an endangered subspecies ranging along the Murray River in south-eastern Australia. There may be as few as 800 breeding individuals in South Australia. Clearing and fragmentation of native habitat, the continuing decline in riparian trees due to changes in the water table and river regulation, and persecution as a perceived agricultural pest, are all postulated as significant threatening processes. Aspects of the natural history of this population remain incompletely understood, and efforts are ongoing to determine the principle drivers of the decline.

During the 2012-14, 69 birds were captured in mist nets at a number of feeding flyways between Berri and Waikerie, SA. All birds were examined under isofluorane anaesthesia. Each bird was weighed, measured, and leg banded. Blood samples were collected for DNA sexing, routine haematology and biochemistry, and nutritional analyses. Feathers and blood spots were collected for Psittacine Circovirus testing, and swabs were collected for Chlamydia sp., Psittacid Herpesvirus-1 and Avian Bornavirus PCR.

Five parrots had proliferative cutaneous foot lesions, previously identified but not investigated in regent parrots in Victoria. Histology and molecular testing to date indicates a papillomavirus aetiology.

To enhance understanding of regent parrot biology, we are beginning to deploy telemetry devices. A backpack style harness design has been refined for this species, trialled on captive birds, and has successfully been fitted to a number of free-ranging birds. Three different transmitters have been used to date. The relative merits of each are currently being evaluated to determine the most efficient tool to answer prescribed questions.

This presentation will discuss results of the biomedical survey, and give an update of telemetry studies to date.