Parakeet population explosion threatens borough's birdlife

PUBLISHED: 15:21 18 June 2008 | UPDATED: 09:32 12 August 2010

PRETTY: parakeets. Picture by Andy Luck.

PRETTY: parakeets. Picture by Andy Luck.

BEAUTIFUL birds from India are under threat of a cull because they could be disturbing native wildlife. Numbers of Ringneck

BEAUTIFUL birds from India are under threat of a cull because they could be disturbing native wildlife.

Numbers of Ringneck Parakeets have increased so drastically throughout south-east London and Kent that bird experts predict they could tally 50,000 by the end of the decade.

Bromley RSPB spokesman Bob Land said: "There are hundreds of them in Bromley. Wherever there is woodland you will find them. There are lots in Kelsey Park in Beckenham. It's suspected that they're taking the nesting holes from other birds such as woodpeckers and starlings. They are definitely increasing and spreading out to places like Sevenoaks. It's a possibility that there could be a cull of them but the majority of people I come across are quite happy about the birds. Birdwatchers and people who feed native birds are not so happy because the parakeets monopolise bird feeders and don't give the smaller birds a chance."

The versatile birds have increased so rapidly because they are very successful breeders, with the females laying two or three eggs a year and living up to 20 years.

They also nest earlier than other birds, bagging the best holes and defending them aggressively from intruders.

Andy Luck, a photographer and BBC producer, became fascinated by Ringnecks when one flew into his conservatory and stunned itself.

He said: "They're great birds. They are very clever and funny so they make brilliant photographic subjects. You can get a good rapport with them that you don't get with other birds, they're very inquisitive."

Mr Luck admitted that there is a possibility the birds, which have destroyed crops in other counties, could become a problem.

He said: "There could be a problem if 7,000 or so came to Kent.

"They have destroyed vineyards elsewhere and could damage Kent's economy. I've spoken to farmers who say the birds come exactly when fruit is ripe and decimate it by pecking."

Mr Luck said evidence collected by Belgium academics at the University of Antwerp showed numbers of native birds are considerably lower in places where Ringnecks have been allowed to thrive.

He said: "If the birds do become a problem, DEFRA may have to cull the birds either by using poison or by farmers applying for permission to shoot them."

A spokesman from DEFRA said: "We take the issue of invasive non-native species such as the ring necked parakeet seriously as they can have a considerable impact on native wildlife.

"We are carrying out an assessment into the risks posted by these birds, and are considering a research project into whether they are having an effect on the UK's native birds.

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