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Parapara vs Morepork

The indigenous Parapara or “bird-catcher” tree (Ceodes brunoniana) is somewhat controversial. It produces sticky fruits over the winter months and has been known to catch birds, especially small passerines. However, rescuing birds from the sticky clutches of these plants is nothing new; there are reports from as early as 1883 where sparrow and wax eye were removed, washed and released.

An adult morepork was removed from a Parapara tree in Otaki and admitted to Wildbase Hospital. The bird was in good body condition, but approximately 20% of the feathers, involving the tail and primaries of both wings, were covered by the Parapara sap, disrupting silent flight and likely the ability to hunt successfully. The bird would need cleaning before release.

Many rehabilitators use ‘De-sol-vit’ for cleaning birds that have been caught in the sticky clutches of the Parapara tree. It is a citrus-based cleaner with a strong smell and oily residue. This oil should also be removed from the bird, incase it preens and ingests the cleaner. The oil destroys the waterproofing.

Before washing the Morepork with De-sol-vit under an anaesthetic, as is standard practice at Wildbase Hospital, Pauline conducted a small trial to see if another, less irritating product could clean the sticky sap away. The Morepork was anaesthetised, and several contaminated body feathers were plucked away. The Morepork was then recovered.

Each feather was subjected to the same cleaning method but using different products, utilising skills and knowledge from cleaning oiled wildlife. The trial concluded that both De-sol-vit and soybean oil were effective in removing the sap, and when washed with Dawn, produced clean feathers that would weatherproof. Using an edible and safer product, such as oil, means a safer experience for the patient.

The Morepork from Otaki was treated using the soybean oil first as a conditioner, then washed with Dawn. The feathers were later assessed for weatherproofing before release back to the location of the finder.

Article kindly supplied by

Pauline Nijman

Wildbase Hospital and Recovery Supervisor

Massey University, Palmerstone North


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