Another Indian problem in UK

The rose-ringed parakeet, a native bird of India, which has made Britain its home, is posing a threat to the local species. Vishal Gulati on the parrot menace

The parakeet has adapted itself to the cold climate despite its tropical origin.
The parakeet has adapted itself to the cold climate despite its tropical origin.

Britain is facing problems from immigrants, especially Asians. This time it is a different kind of "immigrant" that is causing concern among the ornithologists there. It is a feathery guest, which has made the alien land its home and has multiplied in the wild, posing serious a threat to the native bird species.

The "immigrant" is the rose-ringed parakeet or parrot, a gregarious parakeet species. A native of India and Africa, the parakeet has been in Britain for decades, although it is still a mystery how it was first introduced there.

Some studies say filmmakers imported parakeets and later set them free after the shooting was over. Some of the pet parakeets also escaped or were deliberately released by pet owners. However, it is now illegal to release or allow a parakeet to escape into the wild.

As it is a voracious feeder, its food chain ranges from wild or cultivated fruits to nuts, berries and seeds. With no natural predators preying on the parakeet, its number has increased steadily. It has even adapted itself to the cold climate despite its tropical origin.

The website of the UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says: "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 southeast England. These birds are regularly reported elsewhere in Britain and are likely to be local escapees."

The RSPB estimates that there are about 30,000 parakeets in London, Surrey and Kent, while their numbers could reach 50,000 by 2010.

Dr Fiona Hunter, Species Recovery Officer, RSPB, while answering the questions (via e-mail) to The Tribune on the parakeet menace in the UK, said: "There are concerns about the potential impact rose-ringed parakeets may have on native fauna, particularly through competition for nest holes with native birds such as woodpeckers, starlings and owls, many of which are listed as Birds of Conservation Concern. There is currently no evidence that parakeets are causing problems for native woodland birds but this could change as the parakeet population continues to grow."

"There are also concerns that parakeets may cause serious damage to agricultural crops. "The UK Government has obligations to ensure that this non-native species does not adversely affect native wildlife. It is developing a framework for resolving non-native speciesí issues. The rose-ringed parakeet will be a species assessed under this process.