NEWS AND COMMENT: Defra is planning to cull wild parakeets in Britain. They are an invasive species but I don’t see the need to cull them. They’ve been described as the ‘grey squirrels of the sky’ and they are Britain’s fastest-spreading species of bird with numbers growing by 1,500% over the past 20 years. They are currently protected under British law like any other animal.
I see them where I live and I see them nesting and active in and around Richmond Park and along the Thames in Barnes. I’m told that between 2017 and 2019 Richmond Park’s rangers shot 117 parakeets. I had no idea that they were shooting them or killing them in some other way. The rangers of Richmond Park are not the most energetic of employees, it has to be said. They’d be better employed repairing footpaths than entertaining themselves shooting a sentient beings.
Parakeets like to nest in hollows inside tree trunks. It is believed that there are 170,000 of them in Britain currently. They are native to Africa and India.
It is believed that the first parakeet came to Britain in 1855 and that the 1960s rock icon Jimi Hendrix released a couple of parakeets called Adam and Eve as a symbol of peace in London’s Carnaby Street in 1968. It is also said that some parakeets escaped the set of the film The African Queen. Putting aside these stories, essentially, it is believed that the source of the parakeets in the UK is the release of pet parakeets. This is not an uncommon way for non-native species to become an invasive species in any country and in relation to many species of animal. It’s why people see strange animals in places where they should not exist.
University of Kent experts said that parakeets posed an urgent economic, societal and environmental problem. They compete against native birds such as great tits and blue tits. Landowners have been allowed to shoot or poison ring-necked parakeets since 2009 without obtaining specific permission.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is against a culling of parakeets at this time. They would rather that the birds were monitored and a survey carried out on the impact that they have on native bird species. I would favour this as I do not believe that they have a big negative impact on native species. They say that it is speculation that they have become or will become a problem for native species.
The government should be careful about what they do in terms of killing animals because they think they are a problem. It would be far better to find out exactly how much of a problem they are or whether, indeed, citizens of Britain enjoy their presence. Once they’ve carry out a proper survey they should then make a decision. This plan to cull sounds trigger happy to me. It reminds me of the cull of badgers to protect cattle from TB. I disagree with that too. It has not been proven scientifically that badgers are a threat to cattle in Britain as far as I know. Their role is exaggerated.