1997 July: Sydney Tawny Frogmouths Poisoned: OC pesticides

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Too Many Tawny Frogmouths Die

Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday July 9, 1997

By COL ALLISON

A scientific study will attempt to monitor the dwindling numbers of one of Australia’s most unusual birds, the tawny frogmouth – a victim of residual pesticide poisoning.

The Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services (SMWS), a newly formed non-profit organisation, was set up to concentrate on animal problems in the Sydney region, according to its spokeswoman, Mrs Jacqueline Corr, a former animal carer with WIRES (the Wildlife Information and Rescue Service) for 10 years.

Three years ago, Ms Corr – who held the WIRES Insect and Carnivorous Birds Register, which keeps track of sick animals under care – was instrumental in initiating toxicity tests by the Department of Agriculture in Queensland following the many deaths of “tawnies” in Sydney each spring.

The tests confirmed her suspicions after WIRES recorded the deaths of 53 tawnies within six days and 200 for the 1993-94 year. The owl-like birds had died of massive accumulation of chemicals stored in their fat. The main offenders were chemicals used to spray for termite control.

“It came to my attention that tawnies were dying of things we didn’t quite understand. I’d noticed it for the previous six to eight years,” Ms Corr said.

“Organochlorides are the main offenders. They are sprayed under houses and are picked up by stick insects and frogs, favourite foods of the tawnies.

“When food is in short supply, the birds draw on their fat deposits for survival, but in effect it kills them.”

Still vitally concerned by frogmouth mortality, Mrs Corr and her fellow SMWS members are about to launch a fresh investigation and are seeking public support in their campaign.

The association would like to hear from any members of the public who have tawny frogmouths nesting in their gardens or environs.

Contact SMWS on 9413 4300 or at the services’ head office, Jenkins Kitchen in the Lane Cove National Park, Lady Game Drive, West Chatswood.