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Parakeets are the new pigeons – and they’re on course for global domination

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Love them or hate them, ring-necked parakeets have invaded Europe and they’re here to stay. Already a staple of many urban parks and gardens around the UK, some of these charismatic bright green birds are now so comfortable in their new surroundings that they will happily sit and feed from your hand.

Parakeets are Britain’s fastest growing bird population and are on a trajectory to global domination. Outside of their native southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, breeding populations are now established in at least 65 cities around Europe, and more than 30 countries across five continents.

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Such non-native, or “invasive” species are one of the biggest causes of biodiversity loss in the world today, and can cause severe economic damage. Understanding these species is incredibly useful for any attempt to design environment policy and prevent further invasions. Populations of invasive ring-necked parakeets (Psittacula krameri) provide an excellent case study, owing to their patterns of rapid growth and spread.

Parakeet feeding time in Kensington Gardens, central London.

These parakeets were introduced into the UK in the late 1960s and now number well over 32,000 birds. They were originally concentrated around Greater London and nearby Kent, but these areas are now saturated which has resulted in parakeets spreading around the country, reaching as far north as Inverness in Scotland.

Many popular stories exist to explain how these exotic parakeets came to live in the UK, including their escape from the film set of the African Queen, and my personal favourite: their deliberate release by Jimi Hendrix to inject some psychedelic colour into the streets of London. More likely it is a result of the popularity of keeping ring-necked parakeets as pets.

The global transportation of wild ring-necked parakeets in addition to in-country breeding, has led to their successful establishment outside their native range. Between 1984 and 2007 a staggering 146,539 ring-necked parakeets were imported to Europe, before an EU ban on the trade of wild birds. The UK alone imported more than 16,000.

London gardens are parakeet paradise.
Steve K, CC BY-SA

We know how they got to Europe’s cities, but what makes ring-necked parakeets so good at adapting to new environments? The climate is likely to play a strong role in their ability to survive outside of their native range. Despite their incredibly large native range, spanning two continents, the parakeets found across Britain and Europe originate predominately from across the colder foothills of the Himalayas, largely in Pakistan.

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The distinct lack of parakeets from warmer areas in Africa suggests similarities in temperature and rainfall between the native and invasive ranges made life easy for them. It seems the parakeets were already well adapted to survive in northern Europe.

Interestingly, back in the late 1800s wild ring-necked parakeets were observed in the UK, but they failed to survive. So what’s different now? Perhaps warmer winters due to climate change, in combination with our love of feeding birds thus giving them a year-round supply of energy, have provided ideal conditions for parakeets to thrive around the country.

Let’s also not overlook the lack of natural predators outside their native range. Unsurprisingly, Asian black eagles aren’t a concern in London’s parks. However, it seems Britain’s urban peregrines and sparrow hawks have now started to notice the exotic new meat on the menu. Yet despite native falcons’ success at preying on wild parakeets, they’re unlikely to make a dent on the growing numbers of invasive parakeets.

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Despite parakeets being well established in the UK, we still don’t fully understand their potential impact, good or bad. Do they affect native wildlife by competing for nest holes and food? Preliminary reports show some level of competition for nest sites with European native nuthatches, and that they displace garden birds from bird feeders. Back in Asia and Africa ring-necked parakeets are severe crop pests, but we don’t yet know if they’ll damage British fruit crops and cause economic damage.

Parrot or pest?
sara~, CC BY-SA

Many scientists are also curious about the impact they are having on people. Does living near large roosts cause noise pollution? Does seeing exotic parakeets in parks and gardens around the UK improve human wellbeing? These are just some of the questions we’re aiming to answer through ParrotNet, a pan-European group of researchers dedicated to understanding the challenge of invasive parrots (ring-necked parakeets are just one of 13 species of parrot established across Europe).

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Despite their abundance, surprisingly, many British people remain unaware that wild parakeets are living among them. As these vibrant birds are now spreading around the country, in time they will become commonplace in all the UK’s urban areas. While we may still regard these colourful and exotic parakeets as something of an exciting novelty, I suspect our children and their children may simply consider them no more exciting than a common pigeon.

The Conversation

Hazel Jackson, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Kent

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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John Oliver rips Fox News’ Tucker Carlson for urging ‘order’ from people of color — but never demanding it of police

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John Oliver opened his Sunday show, shredding Fox News host Tucker Carlson for uring "order" among protesters, but refusing to urge "order" to police and "wannabe police" who can't stop killing people.

It's a lot, Oliver explained. "How these protests are a response to a legacy of police misconduct, both in Minneapolis and the nation at large and how that misconduct is, itself, built on a legacy of white supremacy that prioritizes the comfort of white Americans over the safety of people of color."

While some of it is complicated, Oliver conceded, most of it is "all too clear."

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Cars set on fire blocks from White House as DC protests turn violent

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The Washington, D.C. protests turned violent as the city approached the 11 p.m. curfew the mayor instituted Sunday afternoon.

The policy of D.C. police is that when they are attacked, they advance forward. So, when fireworks were fired, the line of officers began pushing the protesters back further from the White House. Behind the line of police officers also stand a line of National Guard troops that President Donald Trump has demanded stand watch in the city.

Lights that normally shine on the White House have also been turned off, reporters revealed.

https://twitter.com/markknoller/status/1267291138655956992

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Cincinnati sheriff deputies replace American flag at the Justice Center with ‘thin-blue-line’ flag

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Cincinnati police were filmed replacing the American flag that hangs over the Justice Center in Ohio's third-largest city. They then replaced it with the thin-blue-line flag, that was created to advocate for law-enforcement during Black Lives Matter Protests.

During the Charlottesville, Virginia riots, right-wing and white supremacist activists carried the thin-blue-line flag along with the Confederate flag to speak out against Black Lives Matter.

While the flag may have been created in support of law enforcement, it has been adopted by white supremacists and taken on a darker meaning.

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