Hunter Wildlife Rescue warns of the dangers of secondary poisoning for birds

WARNING: Port Stephens residents are being asked to look out for the tawny frogmouth bird in our wildlife and to look for wildlife-friendly rat poison. Picture: Supplied
WARNING: Port Stephens residents are being asked to look out for the tawny frogmouth bird in our wildlife and to look for wildlife-friendly rat poison. Picture: Supplied

The feedback from the Examiner article on the plight of the tawny frogmouth bird has prompted a Hunter Wildlife Rescue (HWR) expert to allay some common held misconceptions on secondary poisoning.

HWR member Anne Williams confirmed that birds of prey such as owls, eagles, hawks and kookaburras would be affected by the rat poisoned animals and had the potential to succumb to poisoning.

"Tawny frogmouths, however, do not eat rats, they may take the odd mouse but their normal diet is insects of various size and type including crickets, cockroaches, spiders, snails, moths and small frogs. They get affected by eating slugs and snails that have fed on rat bait or insects that have been poisoned with pesticides."

Ms Williams said that many of the pest sprays used on Port Stephens households and surrounds to stop these creatures causes the frogmouths to develop a long-term organochlorine accumulation in their bodies.

"It does not always affect them immediately, but it accumulates in their fat and in winter when insect abundance is low their system starts to use their fat stores which causes the organochlorines to enter their bloodstream.

"This causes the bird to twitch and shake and eventually paralyses their legs. They will also convulse and may have distressful screaming episodes. The outcome unfortunately is for them to be euthanised.

"These poor birds also suffer from a paralysis caused by rat-lung worms when a bird eats snails or slugs that have crawled over rat droppings."

Ms Williams said that the rat poison Racumin was the safest to use and that it did not have the secondary poisoning that can occur with night-time owls and daytime raptors such as eagles, hawks and birds like kookaburras, magpies, egrets and herons.

"It is also safer for your own pet dogs and cats that are likely to eat or play with these creatures."

Ms Williams reiterated the message to motorists to remain vigilant when driving at night in Port Stephens. She said that kangaroos and wallabies were most at risk at night.

"Unfortunately, when a car comes along animals can get confused by the headlights and invariably run across the road in front of the vehicle. Many of these die immediately and if they are still on the road it is advisable to pull them well off the side so they do not cause a hazard for other drivers. It is also advisable to check if there is a joey in the pouch of the females and call a hotline rescue number as soon as possible."

The HWR number is 0418 628 483 or people in the Port Stephens area can contact Wildlife In Need of Care (WINC) on 1300 946 295.

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