More Mass Bird Deaths in Australia – Hundreds of galahs mysteriously found dead in Burra

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Hundreds of galahs mysteriously found dead in Burra

About 200 galahs have been found dead in the South Australian town of Burra, prompting investigations by the state’s Department for Environment and Water and the local council.

Key points:

  • About 200 galahs found dead in Burra in SA’s Mid North
  • Birds otherwise looked healthy and weren’t “grain gorging”
  • State Government and council investigating

Dead birds started turning up in the historic Mid North town last Wednesday, with numbers increasing to about 200 by Monday, according to Animal Rescue and Care co-ordinator Ruth Norris.


A galah, with wings outstretched, comes in to land on a tree

A Facebook post featuring some of the deceased creatures by Ms Norris has been shared more than 1,600 times.

She said the birds otherwise looked healthy and it was not obvious how they had died.

“We’re wondering whether someone has put some poison down inadvertently — a fertiliser, poison, or whether it was an actual purposeful poisoning, I don’t know,” Ms Norris told the ABC.

“We’re hoping to send some off to PIRSA [Primary Industries and Regions SA] or a lab to get tested.

“Apart from that, they all appear adult and healthy.”

They were all found in a small area around the old courthouse and police house lockup, on Sancreed Street, in North Burra — an area where galahs tend to congregate.

Ms Norris said this meant it was unlikely they had died from gorging on germinating seeds from local farms.

In that case, dead birds would have been found in a much larger area.

A necropsy she did revealed very little grain in their stomachs.

“They’ve got good body condition so it’s not a weather event, it’s not a disease, it appears to be a very unusual event or even suspicious,” she said.

Cats and dogs which had touched the galahs had not become sick, she said.


State Government and council investigating deaths

A Department for Environment and Water spokeswoman said staff were “looking into the circumstances” of the deaths following the Facebook post and media enquiries, however no official report had been made.

Galahs are not a protected species in South Australia, however they can only be killed by shooting.

Regional Council of Goyder chief executive David Stevenson said the council had sent off some of the dead birds to the Natural Resources office in Clare for investigation.

While galahs were common in the grain-farming area, he said it was concerning to find so many dead in suspicious circumstances.

“We’re very concerned, particularly that we don’t know what has caused this,” Mr Stevenson said.

“It seems that it’s only affected galahs.

“I guess the jury’s out until we hear from the experts.”

Ms Norris said she was surprised by how far her Facebook post had travelled.

“I’m very grateful that so many people care and that it has gone viral,” she said.

“It’s a good lesson learnt that whatever we do in the environment, it has a flow-on effect.

“So we have to be really careful and think things out really carefully before we say ‘I’m going to do this’.

“Because whatever we do has a consequence and if we’re aware of that and think of the end result then we can work towards far better management of whatever we’re dealing with.”

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