Ring-necked parakeets appear to have invaded Europe in large numbers and it looks like they are thriving and here to stay. A common sight in many parks and gardens around the UK, these bright green birds are becoming comfortable in their new territories and are Britain's fastest growing bird population. But is that a good thing?
Populations Across Europe
The parakeets have established breeding populations in as many as 65 cities across Europe and in more than 30 countries outside of their native Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. They are now found in five continents but could they be negatively impacting the biodiversity in their new homes? Invasive species can be problematic and are thought to be the principle cause of biodiversity loss around the world.
How Did They Get Here?
The birds were introduced into the UK in the late 1960s and there are now well over 32, 000 birds in residence. Parakeets were originally concentrated around Greater London and the home counties but have spread as far north as Inverness in Scotland. Many reasons for their arrival have been proffered including some obviously ridiculous urban myths but it is likely that the first birds were merely escaped pets. The birds became extremely popular as pets leading to huge numbers being imported into the country. Some of these would certainly have found their way into the wild.
Climate Change and Parakeet Food
Ring-necked parakeets have proved to be very good at adapting to their new environment. Many of the specimens found in the UK would have originated from the colder regions of their native territories such as the foothills of the Himalayas. This means that the climate in the UK is not too dissimilar to that of their natural range. In addition, climate change may have made a little easier for them. Many people like to feed these birds and invest in to offer them. This would also have helped them to become established.
The parakeets may also be thriving due to a lack of natural predators in Europe. However, there is evidence to suggest that Britain's peregrines and sparrow hawks may be starting to view the brightly coloured birds as potential meals.
The Environment, Lifestyle and Ring-Necked Parakeets
The impact of these birds on the environment and people's quality of life has yet to be properly researched. They could affect native wildlife by competing for nesting sites and food. The parakeets have been seen competing for nesting sites with nuthatches and displacing garden birds from feeders which contain bird mixes rather than specifically parakeet food. In their native range they damage crops and so could impact British fruit growers.
Some people may consider the parakeets to be contributing to noise pollution whilst others love to see and hear these birds. It is hard to know whether, overall, they are enhancing or detracting from people's lives.
Have you seen ring-necked parakeets in your neighbourhood and are they a welcome site?