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18 August 2009
Parakeets are able to cope with the cold British winters, especially where a food supply is more reliable
Image: Steve Round
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.
'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.'
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 the winter months.
Media coverage occasionally suggests that a cull of ring-necked parakeets may be necessary, due to rapidly expanding numbers and concerns about their potential impact on native bird species, such as woodpeckers, starlings and nuthatches, through competition for nest holes. 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. Defra is currently funding research to determine whether such impacts are likel
The RSPB is not in favour of a cull of parakeets at this time. Defra, in conjunction with the devolved administrations, is undertaking risk assessments of non-native species and we await their conclusions on parakeets.
If the parakeet population were to continue to grow, the implications for our native species must be closely monitored. The Government is obliged to ensure that non-native species do not adversely affect native wildlife, and is currently developing a policy framework for addressing the possible risks associated with such species becoming established.
There have been reports of isolated incidents of parakeets causing damage to vineyard crops in south-east England. If such cases occur, there is provision under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 for a landowner to apply to government for a licence to address the problem.
However, scaring and exclusion tactics should be tried and shown to be ineffective before lethal measures can be considered as a last resort.
All wild birds, their nests and eggs, are protected by law - this includes non-native birds such as parakeets.