The Para Para or Bird Catcher Tree snares birds with its sticky seeds damaging the feathers and sticking the feathers together, preventing the birds from being able to fly out of harms way. The seeds of the tree attract insects and the birds are attracted to the insects that have been caught on the pods, the birds when going in to feed on the insects get caught by the very sticky substance.
If the birds are able to break free of the pods they are usually still covered with the glue like substance and when they fall to the ground they get covered with the debris under the tree. The birds are unable to move and unfortunately they usually starve or are killed by cats or dogs. Fantails, Silvereyes, Blackbirds, Kingfishers and even Moreporks fall victim to the tree.
The plant is a native species and can grow up to six metres high. It isfound on the east coast and offshore islands of the upper North Island and there are two varieties one has large dark green shiny leaves and the other has green leaves with yellow edges. During the flowering and fruiting season between August and December, it releases the sticky substance on the black seed heads, which remains active for up to eight months.
The tree evolved to use large seabirds to disperse its seeds by using the sticky substance to attach seeds to their plumage but small urban species cannot cope with the highly sticky gum-like substance.
Anyone finding a bird in distress in or near a Para Para tree should remove the bird from the tree by cutting the plant around the bird and not the feathers, do not attempt to clean the bird or remove the pods. Place the bird in a box with a towel on the bottom to stop them sliding around in the box and contact a bird rescue centre as soon as possible for further advice.