Canberrans are being urged to help stop the spread of a potentially lethal bird disease, as conservationists look to protect the iconic gang-gang cockatoo and learn more about its breeding habits.
At least one breeding gang-gang has beak and feather disease, which is highly likely to be lethal to the adult bird and its nestlings.
ACT government senior environmental planner Dr Michael Mulvaney said there was no effective treatment for the condition.
But because gang-gangs usually returned to the same trees to breed, Dr Mulvaney said the government would attempt to disinfect the affected bird's hollow before the next breeding season.
He said the diseased bird could spread the virus by contaminating food and water, urging Canberrans who left food and water out for birds to take three simple steps.
"It's important to clean feeding trays or platforms every day with vinegar or soap, and to stop feeding or watering if you notice a bird with beak and feather disease," Dr Mulvaney said.
"And the water should be changed daily because it's a virus that gets spread quite easily.
"It's a really horrible disease. It makes the birds go bald and they die because of lack of thermal regulation, so they either freeze or overheat to death."
The signs of beak and feather disease can include loss of feathers or feather abnormalities, and beak abnormalities.
Dr Mulvaney also called on bird lovers to boost the government's limited knowledge of gang-gangs' breeding habits using the Canberra Nature Map website.
Citizen scientists across the ACT have so far lodged 156 photos involving about 40 hollows in areas including Red Hill Nature Reserve, Mount Majura, Gossan Hill, the Botanic Gardens and the Australian National University.
Dr Mulvaney said four gang-gang breeding hollows had been identified in Canberra so far this breeding season – more than in any other year.
"That's really valuable data for us to have," Dr Mulvaney said.
"Once we better understand where they are breeding, we can better manage and conserve them."
Canberrans are asked to look out for gang-gang chicks poking their heads out of hollows and upload observations and photos of any sightings on the Canberra Nature Map website.
Gang-gang chicks are recognisable by the "red mohawk" streak of forming feathers on the tops of their heads.
Sightings and photos of adult gang-gangs at nesting hollows can also be reported and should include information on whether they were seen looking into the hollow or going in and out.
"It's just such a beautiful, magnificent, gracious bird," Dr Mulvaney said.
"We're the gang-gang capital of the world in Canberra, so it's fitting that it's our faunal emblem."
Citizen scientist Jacky Fogerty said she had become "obsessed" with gang-gangs since starting to monitor them for the Canberra Nature Map records last year.
The Hughes resident said she had recently spent up to two hours an evening looking for gang-gang chicks.
"They're so affectionate and they're just the most endearing bird," she said.
Environment Minister Mick Gentleman echoed Dr Mulvaney's message about the steps Canberrans should take to protect birds from disease.
He said gang-gangs regularly visited his garden in Calwell and were an important part of Canberra's landscape.
"Canberrans love being in the bush capital and the gang-gang is a sight that isn't often seen elsewhere," Mr Gentleman said.
"They're very important locally and Canberrans really do look after their wildlife, so we're calling on them to take those simple steps to protect them and to help contribute to our understanding of these native birds."