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Parakeets face massive cull as Government considers shooting ‘grey squirrels of the sky’

Parakeets face massive cull as Government considers shooting ‘grey squirrels of the sky’ that are Britain’s fastest-spreading bird species

  • Defra is discussing shooting large populations of wild parakeets across Britain
  • Number of parakeets in the UK grew 1,500 per cent between 1995 and 2015 
  • Experts say they pose an ‘urgent economic, societal and environmental problem’

Parakeets face a massive cull as Government officials consider shooting the so-called ‘grey squirrels of the sky,’ that are Britain’s fasted-spreading species of bird.

Sources at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are discussing plans to shoot populations of ring-necked parakeets for the first-time ever.

Between 1995 and 2015, parakeet numbers exploded by 1,455 per cent, with around 170,000 of the bright birds currently thought to be in the UK.

Despite legends that the birds, which were originally native to Africa and India, were brought to Britain by 1960s icon Jimi Hendrix, their origins in the UK actually date back to the 19th century, as early as 1855.

Ring-necked parakeets could be culled as experts warn the birds pose an ‘urgent economic, society and environmental problem’. The wild parrots compete against native birds – including blue tits and great tits – at garden bird feeders and can cause damage to orchards if their numbers increase further

Discussions are underway to cull the birds, which pose a threat to native wildlife, but there are no ‘concrete plans,’ according to The Telegraph.  

While most parakeet populations are concentrated in London, there are also large flocks in the Home Counties, as well as Birmingham, Manchester and even as far as Glasgow.

In 2014, experts from the University of Kent warned parakeets pose ‘an urgent economic, societal and environmental problem, as they are a main cause of global biodiversity loss’.

They compete against native birds – including blue tits and great tits – at garden bird feeders and can cause damage to orchards if their numbers increase further. 

Officials are said to be considering culling birds as they arrive in new areas, before they can settle in and breed.

In 2009 landowners were given the right to shoot and poison ring-necked parakeets without requiring specific permission. 

Between 2017 and 2019, gamekeepers at Richmond Park in London shot 117 of the green birds.  

Most parakeet populations are found in London and the South East, but there have been spotted as far as Glasgow. Between 2017 and 2019, gamekeepers at Richmond Park shot 117 of the green birds.

Most parakeet populations are found in London and the South East, but there have been spotted as far as Glasgow. Between 2017 and 2019, gamekeepers at Richmond Park shot 117 of the green birds.

Ring-necked parakeets: The ‘grey squirrel’ of the skies

Despite urban legends linking the spread of ring-necked parakeets to Jimi Hendrix or Humphrey Bogart, the bright birds’ arrival in Britain dates back to the 19th century.

The earliest recorded sighting was in 1855 in Norfolk.

Since then their numbers have slowly risen, with a recent explosion in numbers since 1995 seeing estimates rise to around 170,000.

The large parrot can be easily spotted as it is large, long-tailed and green with a red beak and a pink and black ring around its face and neck.

In captivity, ring-necked parakeets can live up to 30 years.

 

A spokesman for the RSPB told The Telegraph: ‘The RSPB is not in favour of a cull of parakeets at this time, but believes 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.

‘As the climate warms, they may spread into more rural areas which could then become a problem for native species – however that is speculation, and very long term.’

It has been claimed that Jimi Hendrix released the first pair of parakeets, called Adam and Eve, as a symbol of peace when he was stoned in London’s Carnaby Street in 1968. A rival theory maintains that the birds escaped from the set of The African Queen, the film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, in 1951.

But a study revealed the birds were reported in Britain as far back as 1855, when one was seen in Norfolk. 

Dr Steven Le Comber, who led a study by Queen Mary University of London, said: ‘The fun legends relating to the origins of the UK’s parakeets are probably not going to go away any time soon.

‘Our research only found evidence to support the belief of most ornithologists – the spread of parakeets in the UK is likely a consequence of repeated releases and introductions, and nothing to do with publicity stunts by musicians or movie stars.’

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