Despite being home to a variety of different species, wildlife in Britain is rarely described as exotic. This is not to say the wildlife is boring or uninspiring; the seasonal appearance of the Robin, to name but one example, lends a charm to our wildlife that is unparalleled. However, the fact that a badger is alleged to be one of the more dangerous animals to roam these Isles gives you an idea of just how placid the wildlife is. Even the Red squirrel has been outcompeted by its drabber grey cousin.
And yet since the 1970s we have seen the ascension of a bird that wouldn’t look out of place in the forests of South America: the ring-necked, or rose-ringed, parakeet (Psittacula krameri). With their hooked red beaks and vibrant green feathers, these birds are undeniably spectacular and enchanting to behold. They are mainly confined to the South East of England, but sightings have been reported as far afield as Wales and Scotland. Not a native species to Britain, their population has grown through deliberate or accidental release into the wild from the pet industry. Their natural habitat ranges from West Africa to low altitude areas south of the Himalayan line. They are secondary cavity nesters, which essentially means they take up residence in holes that have previously been abandoned by other birds. Not being the only birds to adopt this strategy, there is therefore a possibility for species conflict to arise.
So the important question is, is the ring-necked Parakeet damaging our native species?
Recently, a risk assessment was undertaken by Newson and colleagues to determine whether or not the birds are having a detrimental effect on local fauna. It found that there was no significant reduction in Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) numbers (a species of bird that is also a secondary cavity nester and hence potentially at risk of being outcompeted). However data suggests that Parakeet numbers are increasing, as a survey found that their population increased by up to 600% between 1995 and 2007. When we look at a similar study by Baillie and colleagues on the effects of parakeet numbers on local Eurasian Nutchatches in Belgium, we see that these birds can cause a decline in native wildlife when there is a limit on local nesting sites for both species. As a result, it may be prudent in the future to conduct further studies. As the parakeet population grows and potentially spreads across the country, we must attempt to make sure it does not gain notoriety for becoming one of the bullies of Britain.
I would never accept these birds at the expense of our native species. However without current proof that they are damaging our ecosystem, I think they are a beautiful edition to our already fantastic wildlife, and one that I will continue to enjoy.
Baillie, S.R., Marchant, J.H., Leech, D.I., Joys, A.C., Noble, D.G., Barimore, C., Grantham, M.J., Risely, K. & Robinson, R.A. 2009.Breeding Birds in the Wider Countryside: Their Conservation Status 2008. BTO Research Report No. 516. BTO, Thetford. (http://www.bto.org/birdtrends).
Bbc.co.uk, (2014). BBC Nature – Ring-necked parakeet videos, news and facts. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Rose-ringed_Parakeet [Accessed 24 Oct. 2014].
Newson, S., Johnston, A., Parrott, D. and Leech, D. (2011). Evaluating the population-level impact of an invasive species, Ring-necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri, on native avifauna. Ibis, 153(3), pp.509–516.
The RSPB, (2014). Ring-necked parakeets in the UK. [online] Available at: http://www.rspb.org.uk/forprofessionals/policy/species/nonnative/parakeets.aspx [Accessed 24 Oct. 2014].
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