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Storms Bring Rare Avian Visitors

Conservationists are puzzled at a freaky phenomenon blamed on this winter’s monster storms.

A bird rescue centre is caring for six giant petrels after concerned members of the public found the birds in distress.

New Zealand Bird Rescue’s Lyn MacDonald said in 27 years working at the shelter, she’d never had more than one giant petrel at a time. In fact, she rarely saw more than one a year. Each of the six birds now at the shelter arrived separately over the past few weeks.

The latest, found near Muriwai, arrived yesterday.

(One of the giant petrels which have been rescued by New Zealand Bird Rescue over recent weeks. Photo / Renee Henderson-Vousden)

MacDonald believed the most rational explanation lay with wild storms of the last few weeks causing the birds to be blown off course. Yet there were plenty of similar storms over the last quarter-century, and no subsequent increase in wounded petrel sightings.

Initial blood tests indicated some of the birds suffered from internal bleeding.

MacDonald’s colleague Renee Henderson-Vousden also met the birds at the Green Bay rescue centre. “They’re amazing to be around,” she said. “Up close they’re really large.”

Giant Petrels have some unflattering nicknames – stinker, stinkpot and sea vulture – but Henderson-Vousden said they didn’t smell at all and were delightful company, as well as being majestic.

Henderson-Vousden said the big birds, all young adults, were moderately territorial but not fighting.

All were members of the northern giant petrel species, distinctive for their pinkish tips on their bills. They were all expected to fully recover, even though one was virtually dead on arrival a few weeks ago, MacDonald said.

New Zealand Birds Online lists the species as naturally uncommon.

According to, nearby populations included 230 breeding pairs on Antipodes Island, another 230 on Campbell Island, and 50 pairs on the Auckland Islands.

In the 1990s, thousands were believed to have been killed in longline fisheries for Patagonian toothfish. The species has since recovered and its numbers are thought to be increasing.

In March 2012, the Department of Conservation was amazed after a juvenile northern giant petrel landed near Wellington after it was thought to have “hitched” a 500km ride with string winds from its home in the Chatham Islands.

MacDonald said petrels were quiet, placid birds and had no fear of humans because in their natural habitat they rarely encountered people.

The Rescue Centre has been monitoring the birds and feeding them. It planned to release the petrels back into the wild soon. People who wish to donate to the birds’ rehabilitation can do so at

Article by:  John Weekes Reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

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What treatment for pet birds infested by worms?

Each worm type requires different treatment, with diagnosis normally given by an avian veterinarian.

Avian Vet Sick Pet Bird Diagnosis

Tapeworm are difficult to detect, even by a vet.  Treatment is generally by eradication of the insects carrying the eggs, so use of an insecticide in and around the aviary.

Roundworm are the most commonly found parasite in budgies and cockatiels so bird worming products for this are readily available at pet suppliers or via the internet.  It normally comes as a water-soluble treatment, where you dissolve the medication in your bird’s drinking water.  It is generally not as effective as you have to rely on your bird’s intake of the medicated water, and without watching your budgie or cockatiel for 24 hours you cannot be sure of this.

The best way to worm your pet bird is to have an avian vet or a bird specialty shop give a direct dose of medication into the bird’s crop by using a ‘‘gavage needle”.  If you do suspect your pet bird has worms, ask for a laxative to be added to the worming treatment.  The laxative will help your birds pass the worms more easily; without it, dislodging a heavy infestation may cause intestinal blockage.

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Roundworm Tapeworm Hairworm Threadworm – so many worms!

Birds and worms – What’s the difference between Roundworm, Tapeworm, Hairworm, Threadworm? 

Live in the intestine of a bird.  They are white and are normally 1 inch to 1½ inches long (3 cm to 4 cm), although they can be up to 4 inches (10 cm).  Roundworm are easily spotted if passed in your bird’s droppings.  Being a parasite, roundworm live and eat off their host, ie your pet bird!  Out in the air and away from the host they die and shrivel to a pink color.

Roundworm eggs are passed in a bird’s droppings, then passed from bird to bird as they come into contact with these infected droppings.

Signs of Roundworm
The bird eats a lot but loses weight due to the roundworm absorbing all the available nutrients.  It has slightly ruffled feathers and poor feather condition, picking or scratching at the stomach area, disinterested in its surroundings, messy vent, diarrhea or straining to pass droppings if infested heavily (a severe blockage can lead to death), and poor development in young birds.

Fine and threadlike living in the esophagus, crop or intestine.  There are many types ranging in length from ¼ inch to 2½ inches (1 cm to 6 cm).  Threadworm are also known as Hairworm.

Threadworm eggs are passed in a bird’s droppings, then passed from bird to bird as they come into contact with these infected droppings.

Signs of Threadworm
Loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, disinterested in its surroundings, vomiting, diarrhea with blood in it, death.

Affix to the wall of the intestine and vary in type and length, ranging from less than ¼ inch to 12 inches (1 cm to 30 cm).

Tapeworm eggs are passed in a bird’s droppings, then eaten by small insects such as snails and beetles.  Birds then eat the insects.  For this reason, tapeworm are more commonly found in insect eating birds, rather than seedeaters.

Signs of Tapeworm
Loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, droppings contain mucus or bits of tapeworm.

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Cockatiels and Budgies and Worms.

Cockatiels and budgies are vulnerable to worm-like internal parasites, with the most common being roundworm. 

Aviary birds are a lot more susceptible to worms than cockatiels and budgies housed indoors all the time.  This is due to wild birds perching on aviaries and their infected droppings landing on the aviary floor.  The floor harbours the parasite eggs and the aviary cockatiels, parakeets and budgies come into contact with these when they graze on the floor.

Indoor Pet Birds can still have worms

Be aware that indoor pet birds can still be infested with worms.  If you hang your cockatiel or budgie cage outside at all, wild birds will occasionally sit on top of the cage, with possible contamination from their droppings.  Your pet bird may have contracted worms from the aviary or pet store you obtained the bird from.  And, be careful when you introduce a new cockatiel or budgie to your existing bird as it may be a carrier of such disease.

Protection from worms

Hygiene is the key.  You must maintain a strict cleaning regime, with regular and thorough cleaning.  Aviary birds should be treated for worms on a regular basis.  An aviary with a natural environment – greenery and dirt floors – is prone to a build up of parasites, so requires more attention to cleanliness and regular worming of the birds.

Keep seed and water dishes free of droppings – do not place them under perching areas.

Also, be sure to have newly acquired birds treated for worms before you introduce them to your existing birds.

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Worms… Not the type that birds eat!

I recently took in a sick pigeon and had it wormed (or de-wormed) by our local bird rescue centre.  The resultant pile of dead roundworm on the cage floor within 12 hours was disgusting – no wonder this poor bird had been showing signs of illness.  These parasites had been absorbing all the available nutrients from the pigeon’s food intake for goodness knows how long!

This reminded me of many years ago when I took pity on three cockatiels in a pet shop who for weeks I saw squashed together in a cage the size of a shoe box!  I bought them and eventually found them a wonderful new home together in a large aviary.

Back to worms though… I had these three cockatiels for a couple of weeks before rehousing them and noticed that one out of the three was less active, slightly grumpy and fluffed up and ate lots more than the other two cockatiels, and also strained a little when passing droppings.

Wormed him, and within 24 hours this poor bird had passed 35 roundworm!!!!  Needless to say he perked up very quickly.