Why manage rainbow lorikeets?
In Perth, rainbow lorikeets cause a variety of problems including:
- damage to backyard fruit crops
- fouling of outdoor areas and vehicles with droppings
- competition with other species for food and nest sites
- in the Swan Valley, lorikeets cause damage to commercial table and wine grape crops
- damage fruit in orchards in the Perth hills
- they are carriers of Psittacine beak and feather disease and pose a potential disease risk to wild and captive parrots.
What is the legal status of lorikeets?
Under legislation administered by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), rainbow lorikeets are declared pests in Western Australia, in all areas south of the Kimberley including the Perth metropolitan area. This means that private, municipal and state government landholders are responsible for control of lorikeets on their land.
In the southern parts of the State no lorikeets, including those captured or rescued, can be legally released back into the wild.
Under legislation administered by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), rainbow lorikeets in the south-west land division are the subject of an Acclimatised Fauna Notice, which recognises that lorikeets are native birds living in the wild as a result of being released, escaping or being the offspring of released or escaped birds. The notice also states that lorikeets can be shot on private land in the south-west land division, without the need for a Damage Licence from DBCA. The notice requires that no damage is to be caused to trees, and traps can only be used by persons licenced to do so under DBCA legislation.
All lorikeet management activities must comply with the Animal Welfare Act 2002, which requires that pest animals are handled and killed humanely. Only competent persons should undertake control activities, all other persons should seek veterinary or other expert assistance.
Who manages lorikeets?
The legal status of the rainbow lorikeet means that government, private landholders, fruit growers and the community all have a role to play in the management of the bird.
DPIRD and DBCA assist commercial fruit producers in their local management of rainbow lorikeets by raising awarness, providing advice and management options in affected areas.
Managing the impacts of rainbow lorikeets at a local level is difficult and expensive. There is no simple solution unless anti-bird netting is used. Using a number of techniques in conjunction with neighbours is likely to be more effective than relying on any one technique at a single location. An example would be the shooting of some birds combined with using a variety of scaring devices.
It is important to note that, unlike other parrots, lorikeets can travel widely in search of food, so some of the management options used for other parrots may not be as effective.
Points to consider to help reduce crop damage by pest birds
- Consider whether the benefits of taking action (to decrease damage) will outweigh the cost and effort. Trials have shown that for other parrot species sometimes the most cost-effective measure is to do nothing, especially for low-value crops.
- Adequate resources (money, labour and equipment) should be set aside to deal with damage problems.
- Co-operation among neighbours may assist in the efficient and effective use of management options, especially in areas where there are a number of small holdings.
- Every situation is different. Management combinations that work at one location may not work at another. Also, not all bird species react the same way to a particular option.
- Instant reduction in damage is unlikely. Management needs to be exercised throughout the whole time when damage occurs, otherwise the effects will be short-lived.
- Scarers or shooting should be used occasionally throughout the year to maintain a degree of wariness in the birds and convince them that the area is not safe for feeding.
- Crops should be regularly checked for signs of damage. Early action can then be taken before the birds become reliant on the crop for food or develop a habit of coming to the crop.
- It is important that the birds associate human activity with danger. They soon lose their fear of humans if not harassed with real danger (or a good simulation of danger).
- Management efforts should be random with respect to the time at which they occur, the type of devices and vehicles used, and the people involved. This reduces the opportunity for birds to get used to a routine and become complacent about particular devices, vehicles, or people. For example, setting and forgetting scaring devices is much less likely to be effective than more strategic, non-repetitive use.
- If there are no alternative food sources (like ﬂowering plants or a sacrificed part of the crop) located where the birds can feed undisturbed, it may be difficult to scare birds from the main crop. They may be reliant on the crop for food and return to it.
- Assessment of the level of damage and the effectiveness of management programs might indicate that next season resources could be better used elsewhere.
What members of the public can do
To assist in the collection of information of rainbow lorikeets, please report to DPIRD when birds are seen for the first time in your area, what damage they are causing, and any large roosting sites observe (roosting sites can only be conﬁrmed if birds are still present in trees after dark).
Even if you are not being directly affected by lorikeets, be supportive of local businesses in your area that are affected and mindful of the responsibilities placed on all landholders to manage the birds.
What fruit growers can do
Be aware of your legislative responsibilities to manage lorikeets and the fact there are management options available. To assist the local co-ordination of management activities, it is important that you report lorikeets on your properties when they are ﬁrst seen and when they are damaging crops.
If you are planning to manage lorikeets on your property, please be sensitive to your neighbours and their lifestyles.
Providing your neighbours with copies of this article and other publications and discussing the pros and cons of various management options are good ﬁrst steps that may help your neighbours to understand the need for what are sometimes noisy and visually-unpleasant management options.
Keeping lorikeets as pets
Many lorikeets are kept as pets in Western Australia. Several lorikeets with metal bands on their legs, showing they were being kept as pets, have been recovered from the wild in Perth and elsewhere in the south-west. To guard against escapes and releases, lorikeets should be maintained in secure double-door aviaries under DBCA licence. Unwanted birds should be surrendered, not released to the wild.
For further information on rainbow lorikeets and rainbow lorikeet control, contact the Pest and Disease Information Service, or the DBCA.
Rainbow lorikeet management options
When and where used: enclose crops with temporary or permanent netting. Available from a number of specialist companies as well as rural and hardware suppliers.
Benefits: effective, long term, and humane when properly installed.
Costs and other considerations: high initial capital outlay and not economic for protection of low-value crops. May obstruct farming practices and require maintenance unless properly designed. There can be animal welfare issues with loosely applied nets or nets with large mesh-size, as birds can be entangled. Reduces air movement so may increase crop disease problems. Also can exclude beneficial predators and increase insect damage. Could move birds to other types of crops like wine grapes.
When and where used: various devices (for example, bio-acoustic sounds, laser lights, fire hoses) used in combination at feeding, loafing and roosting sites. To be effective, may also require alternative foods at another location that the birds can move to, as well as use of firearms.
Benefits: humane and safer in built-up areas.
Costs and other considerations: often costly as probably necessary to apply continually, with devices being rotated to be effective. Scarers may breach noise regulations and bird-scaring ammunition like Bird Frite® can be a minor fire risk during dry periods. Reported to be ineffective on some properties in the Swan Valley.
When and where used: alternative ﬂowering or fruiting plants attractive to lorikeets are placed or planted away from the crop while scaring continues only at the crop. A variation is to sacrifice a corner of the crop to the birds where they are left undisturbed.
Benefits: in tree plantations, alternative foods are somewhat effective on ringneck parrots, but effectiveness against lorikeets is currently unknown.
Costs and other considerations: alternative foods must always be available during the damage season or birds could shift back to the crop. Alternative foods may attract birds to the area in the ﬁrst place.
Cover or remove vehicles or other items
When and where used: roost or food trees can usually be identified by the noise the birds make. Vehicles or items beneath can be covered or moved to avoid fouling.
Benefits: low-cost alternative
Costs and other considerations: when removal is not possible, a cover may be an option.
When and where used: firearms must be licenced. Use must be in accordance with the Firearms Act 1973. Suggested ﬁrearms for use only at close range include: Air Riﬂe (0.17, 0.22); Riﬂe (0.22), Z Long (29 grains) ammunition; Shotgun (0.410), shot size 6-9; (12 gauge), shot size 6, 8.
Benefits: humane if properly carried out. Effective when used intensively to reduce numbers. Trains birds to associate humans with real danger.
Costs and other considerations: use in built-up areas or on very small farms requires great attention to safety and animal welfare issues. Make arrangements with local police and inform the local shire beforehand to avoid problems. Must be applied intensively. May not be effective in scaring birds. Shot birds may be replaced by another ﬂock that ﬁnds the crop.
When and where used: illegal without a licence from DPaW. Attractants may include live lure birds or food (for example, nectar or fruit), possibly in locations where lorikeets are already feeding.
Benefits: may remove birds causing damage at the critical time.
Costs and other considerations: euthanasia can only be applied by experienced operators. Traps must have shelter, food and water and be checked regularly so that lure birds are cared for and trapped birds are removed. Effective trap designs and attractants are not yet available.
When and where used: illegal without a licence from DPaW. Only experienced operators can be licenced.
Benefits: may remove birds causing damage at the critical time.
Costs and other considerations: can only be used effectively where bird ﬂight paths are known and are at heights of less than approximately 3m. High risk of injury to birds and operators when used by unlicensed operators. Euthanasia can only be applied by experienced operators.
The following methods of control are illegal under Western Australian and Australian Government Legislation and should not be considered for use.
Poisoning: Is not selective and so may result in the death of native animals, birds and pets. Crop contamination threatens markets.
Trapping and export/selling of birds: Wild-caught adult birds do not humanise, are not suitable as pets and would almost certainly not be suitable for export. Illegal under international treaty also.
Capture and translocation illegal under WA legislation and animal welfare legislation: Translocated birds must attempt to establish themselves in a new environment. This moves the problem to a new location.