A rainbow lorikeet

Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome Project

Detecting the plant species impacting the health of rainbow lorikeets
Our citizen scientist research project is exploring why lorikeet paralysis syndrome occurs in the southern Queensland and northern New South Wales regions of Australia.

Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome (LPS) is a disease occurring in wild rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) that causes the birds to become paralysed and unable to fly.

This disease is seasonal, occurring between October and June, with the highest number of cases happening between December and February. This results in thousands of rainbow lorikeets being admitted into care each year across south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales (NSW).

Rainbow lorikeets with LPS initially require intensive care followed by long-term rehabilitation, wearing on the resources of both veterinarians and wildlife carers.

The cause of LPS is unknown with research unable to identify an infectious agent or man-made toxin as the causative agent. However, researchers are now exploring the possibility that LPS may be caused by ingestion of a toxic plant that occurs in southern Queensland and northern NSW.

The seasonality of the disease suggests a blooming/fruiting period of the toxic plant that occurs during October to June. The distribution of the locations where lorikeets are found is not random, suggesting that if a toxic plant is the cause of LPS, the plant occurs in some areas but not others.

How to get involved

We require citizen scientists within the designated study site to report observations on iNaturalist of what plant species/food sources the rainbow lorikeets were observed feeding on.

Map of south Queensland and northern New South Wales

Our objective is to collect as many observations as possible from citizen scientists living within southern Queensland and northern NSW area about the plant species wild rainbow lorikeets are feeding on.

This will assist as in identifying what plants or other food sources researchers should sample and test in further studies. 

If you live within the study site and are interested in the project, find out how you can participate and submit an observation.

Data gathered from the project will be analysed to:

  • map the locations of all the data and filter by plant species/food resource,
  • identify list of plant species within the study area that lorikeets are feeding on,
  • look for significant differences between the occurrence of plant species, in hotspot areas versus areas where the disease is not reported,
  • identify plants that rainbow lorikeets are feeding on during periods when lorikeet paralysis syndrome is occurring and what they do not feed on at other times of the year.

Initial surveys done of the area have found rainbow lorikeets feeding on:

  • Eucalypts (Eucalyptus species)
  • Bottlebrush (Callistemon species) 
  • Grevillea species
  • Banksia species
  • Cocos Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana)
  • Coral tree (Erythrina species)
  • Flame bottletree (Brachychiton acerifolius)
  • Umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla)
  • Weeping Boer bean (Schotia brachypetala)
  • African Tulip  (Spathodea campanulata)
  • She-oak (Allocasuarina species)
  • Golden Penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus)
  • Paperbark (Melaleuca species)
  • New Zealand Christmas Tree (Metrosideros excelsa)
Heat map of south-east Queensland

Heat map distribution of lorikeet paralysis syndrome cases.

WIRES logo

This important project examining Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome would not be possible without the generous support of the New South Wales Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES).