Nuts, seeds and bread left out for native birds are causing a bone disease which leaves chicks with fatal abnormalities
Friday 20 January 2017 01.01 GMT Last modified on Friday 20 January 2017 06.14 GMT
The threatened native kaka population of New Zealand’s capital city is being killed by too much love.
Kaka is a native New Zealand parrot and there are roughly 500 of them in Wellington, living in parks and reserves close to suburban homes, as well as in the Zealandia sanctuary.
Last year 80% of the precious kaka chicks monitored by scientists from Wellington city council died, and they have now discovered why.
Food such as nuts, seeds, crackers and pieces of bread left out by well-meaning Wellingtonians for the adult birds are causing the young chicks to develop metabolic bone disease, when their parents regurgitate the food into their mouths.
Depending on how much of the inappropriate food the birds have consumed the disease can cause them to grow up with distorted limbs, severe weakness and bone abnormalities, including beaks that do not close properly and feet pointing the wrong way.
Four Kaka chicks tested last week by the council were all found to have differing levels of metabolic bone disease, and the scientists will give the chicks another two weeks to increase their strength and leave the nest. They will then decide whether they can survive on their own, or will have to be euthanised, as two were last year.
In its worst form the disease renders the birds practically helpless and they starve to death, or shatter their bodies when they hit trees while learning to fly.