Wednesday, 23 November 2016


Ring-necked parakeets have made themselves at home in a non-native environment (photo: JM Garg via Wikimedia Commons)
IS the spread of ring-necked parakeets a matter of concern?

Already common in many parts of London and the South-east, their UK range is now extending  - partly because of releases and escapes from zoos and private bird collections.

In the words of broadcaster and author Bill Oddie - who feeds them in the garden of his home in Highgate, North London - the species has become "an honorary citizen" of this country.

Because parakeets can out-compete native songbirds for feeding and nesting habitat, some have called for a cull, but this is rejected by the RSPB which favours a wait-and-watch approach.

It says: "The ring-necked, or rose-ringed, parakeet is the UK's most abundant naturalised parrot - it became established in the wild in the 1970s after captive birds escaped or were released.

"It is a well-known resident of the Greater London area, roosting communally in large flocks. 

"The population has been increasing steadily, though it remains concentrated in south-east England. 

"Birds are regularly reported elsewhere in Britain, and are likely to be local escapees.

"The ring-necked parakeet's native range is a broad belt of arid tropical countryside stretching from west Africa across lowland India south of the Himalayas where it is a common bird.

"Despite their tropical origin, parakeets are able to cope with the cold British winters, especially in suburban parks, large gardens and orchards where food supply is more reliable. 

"They feed on a wide variety of fruit, berries, nuts, seeds, grain and household scraps. 

"Parakeets are colourful and frequent visitors to bird tables and garden feeders, particularly during winter."

The charity continues: " Media coverage occasionally suggests that a cull of ring-necked parakeets may be necessary, due to their rapidly expanding numbers and concerns about their potential impact on native bird species such as woodpeckers, starlings and nuthatches, through competition for nest holes.

"The RSPB is not in favour of a cull of parakeets at this time, but believes that it is important that the spread of the ring-necked parakeet is monitored, and its potential for negative impacts on our native bird species assessed.

"Government is obliged to ensure that non-native species do not adversely affect native wildlife, and it has developed a policy framework for addressing the possible risks associated with such species becoming established. 

"This includes the production of evidence-based risk assessments of non-native species already in, or likely to reach, Great Britain. Decisions on the type of action necessary is based on the outcome of these risk assessments.

"Ring-necked parakeets, like all birds living in the wild in the UK, are protected by law. The species can be controlled under licence in England, but only in isolated cases where the birds pose a serious threat to conservation of a native species, are causing serious damage to crops or for air safety purposes."

The spread is likely to continue while zoos such as the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park & National Parrot Sanctuary - located at Friskney, between Boston and Skegness - adopts a relaxed (some would say irresponsible) approach.

It says in its publicity material: " We have approximately 30 parakeets that fly freely around our park and have nesting boxes around the site.

"They have become so accustomed to their freedom that catching them to put them back in a captive environment would be very stressful both for them and for us."

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