Invasive parrots: research highlights varied impacts

Non-native parrots can cause substantial damage and threaten native biodiversity, although impacts vary strongly depending on where these parrots have been introduced, according to new pan-European research involving a University of Brighton scientist.

Brought to Europe as pets, escaped or released parrots have established numerous wild populations. Whilst these populations can damage the environment severe impacts are rare and localised with most reports of damage linked to the widely seen ring-necked and monk parakeets.

Over the past few years there have been over 480 sightings of parrots in the Sussex area and it has been estimated that there is now an established population of around 32,000 ring-necked parakeets in South East England.

Dr Rachel White of the University of Brighton School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences was one of a group of researchers, conservationists, wildlife managers and policy-makers who worked together under the umbrella of ParrotNet, an EU COST Action. Their findings have just been published in the open-access journal NeoBiota.

Commenting on the group’s findings, Dr White said: “It is already well known that introduced parakeets can cause damage. Whilst this study has shown that, as far as most of Europe is concerned, the kind of worst-case scenarios some predicted have not yet occurred, biological invasions of this kind are a major cause of biodiversity loss and can inflict massive socio-economic costs. Mapping and classifying available impact evidence, alongside producing an inclusive and updatable impact database, is key to promoting transparent and socially-accepted ways of managing invasive species wherever they occur.”

Their recommendations include stricter regulation aimed at preventing parakeet introductions, rapid response when emerging populations are detected and better dissemination of information to the public about the impact parakeets can have. For example, using bird feeders that parakeets cannot access may help reduce the abundance of these birds in cities.

The Parrotnet policy brief can be downloaded here.

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