Wild parakeets that have become a fixture of many cities across England may be culled because they pose a threat to native wildlife, it has been reported.
The population of the bright green birds has rocketed in recent years, earning them the nickname the ‘grey squirrels of the sky’ amid fears their presence may wipe out other species including rare bats.
Government officials are now considering a potential cull – the first time the ring-necked parakeets have been targeted, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Government sources told the paper Defra is ‘in discussions’ about ordering a cull but no concrete plans have been decided.
The birds first made it to the UK in the late 19th century but it was not until recent decades that the population exploded. The number of parakeets grew by 1,455% between 1995 and 2015 and there are now around 50,000 in the wild.
Since establishing a base in London’s parks, the birds have spread to other UK cities including Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester and even Glasgow – the most northerly flock in the world.
Experts are now concerned the so-called ‘posh pigeons’ will wipe out other bird species because they compete for the same nest holes and food.
Populations of woodpeckers, starlings and nuthatches are all thought to have suffered due to the rapid rise of the parakeets.
Defra is said to be considering culling the birds as they arrive in new areas, rather than attempting to root them out from long-established homes.
Urban legend states the parakeets were able to flourish in the wild after escaping from the set of The African Queen movie in 1951. Another theory traced them back to Jimi Hendrix’s flat in Carnaby Street in the 1960s.
Both have been disproved by scientists who believe the invasion is down to a number of captive birds being released or escaping over the last century.
Landowners have had the right to shoot or poison ring-necked parakeets without special permission since 2009. Gamekeepers shot 117 birds in London’s Richmond Park between 2017 and 2019.
A potential cull is likely to be met with opposition from environmentalists and bird-watchers.
The RSPB’s current position, as stated on the charity’s website, says: ‘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.’
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