What is lorikeet paralysis syndrome and what can you do to help?

Hundreds of rainbow lorikeets have been falling from the sky.

These beautiful birds are dealing with a serious problem, and it’s up to the public to help out. 

Rainbow lorikeets are a national favourite in Australia, and many Aussies love to spot their colourful wings in trees throughout the year. 

However, hundred of lorikeets have begun to fall from the sky, paralysed by a sickness that scientists are struggling to comprehend. 

They have named the illness LPS or Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome. 

While this Tuesday, 48 birds were released in Ipswich after 6 weeks of care, there are up to 200 birds a day being brought to the RSPCA in need of urgent care.

And the science community has called on the public to help.

Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome was actually first identified in 2010, and since then, only 60% of these colourful birds survive the illness. While it is mostly prevalent in southern Queensland and northern NSW, it has been found all over Australia. 

The symptoms of LPS in lorikeets are as follows: 

  • Wobbly walking when on the ground
  • Unable to take flight due to paralysis of wings
  • Unable to blink or swallow

There are varying degrees of LPS, and in some birds, it can affect the whole body.

David Phalen, a professor of wildlife health and conservation who specialises in LPS, spoke to the ABC about this “significant animal welfare crisis”. He explains that it’s “hard to see them as sick as they are. But at the same time, they’re battlers.”

Rainbow lorikeets are a favourite Australian native bird.
(Credit: Getty)

While birds who are found with LPS are treated by WIRES and other animal wildlife rescue centres to the best of their ability, there is still no clear cause of this sickness. 

What are possible causes of Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome?

Researchers have struggled to pinpoint the factor that causes LPS, but the leading theory is that it’s caused by a pathogen from a fruit of flower that’s ingested by lorikeets. While all pesticides and fungicides that could be sprayed on summer plants have been ruled out, finding the exact cause is still a needle in a haystack. 

This illness has been identified as seasonal though, and strikes between October to June every year, spiking in cases during December to February.

Professor Phalen stated to the ABC: “We still think there might be some toxins out there that we haven’t tested for and that will be the focus of our investigation this year.”

Lorikeet paralysis syndrome is seasonal between October and June.
(Credit: Getty)

Researchers have called to the public to help

In the end, it’s up to everyone to help out the birds we love to listen to and look at.

Science researchers from the Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome Project have asked individuals who live between Bundaberg and Grafton (southern QLD and norther NSW) to help document what lorikeets eat.

This will help narrow down the list of potential causes of LPS, which will eventually lead to a prevention and/or cure. 

What to do if you spot an injured rainbow lorikeet 

If you spot a rainbow lorikeet that has fallen from the sky, or is looking wobbly and unable to fly, the best thing to do is called your local wildlife rescue centre, like WIRES, which you can call on 1300 094 737.

They will be able to take in the lorikeet and attempt to rehabilitate it so it is able to survive LPS. Do not attempt to rescue or look after a wild rainbow lorikeet yourself. 

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