Feral parakeets face cull

A species of parakeet living wild in Britain – mainly in London & the south east – could be culled to protect native wildlife. The monk parakeet, originally from South America, damages crops and is a threat to “national infrastructure”, according to the Government.

About 100 to 150 of the birds live in the wild – like the one above spotted in Hither Green cemetery – but numbers are predicted to rise dramatically if no action is taken.

Other invaders

  • Bred for their fur, a group of American mink escaped captivity and established themselves, threatening water fowl, birds and fish
  • Grey squirrels were introduced from the US at the start of the 20th century. There are now around 2.5 million compared with just 140,000 native reds
  • Chinese mitten crab, a freshwater species, arrived in the UK in trade ships. Their burrowed homes are thought to weaken river banks

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “This invasive species has caused significant damage in other countries and we are taking action to prevent this happening in the UK.”

A cull would involve shooting, trapping and nest removal. Although the species looks similar to the better known ring-necked parakeet, which is fully naturalised in Britain, the monk parakeet is much more damaging because of its nesting habits.

It uses sticks to build huge communal nests on pylons and trees that can reach the size of a small car. In the US, nests built on electricity structures have been known to cause power cuts, and extensive damage to crops has been reported.

The birds can be identified by their green body, yellowish belly and pale grey face, breast and bill. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said it supported the decision.

“These species are not causing any major conservation problems in the UK at the moment, but they might in the future,” said an official.

Defra argues that nonnative invasive species deprive the British economy of £1.7 billion a year, though the same report concludes that the parakeets cost £10,000.

A Defra spokesman said: “Where possible the control measures will mean trapping the birds and rehousing them safely, or moving their nests. Only if these measures are unsuccessful or not appropriate will a culling of some monk parakeets be considered.”

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