Britain's naturalised parrot now officially a pest

A A A

Britain’s naturalised parrot is now officially a pest. Forty years after it first bred on the outskirts of London, the ring-necked parakeet today joined gulls, crows and magpies on the short list of birds which can be legally shot without special permission.

The tropical parakeet, whose native range stretches from Africa to the Himalayas, has become an increasingly familiar sight in south London and Surrey in recent years and its numbers are mushrooming, with one roost in a Surrey sports ground sometimes holding several thousand birds.

Many people are charmed by its brilliant, iridescent-green plumage and exotic screech. But growing fears that it may damage native wildlife and crops – in the tropics it is widely considered a pest – today led Natural England, the Government’s wildlife watchdog, to add the bird to the “general licence” of species which can be controlled (that is, culled) without individual permission, if damage is being done.

Three other non-native birds joined it on the list today – the monk parakeet from South America, of which a few species breed in the northern home counties, the Canada goose and the Egyptian goose. All are considered to pose a threat in one way or another either to native wildlife, public health or public safety.

Their addition to the list does not mean it is open season on the birds, with a shooting free-for-all in prospect. But it does mean that if a landowner or any other “authorised person” has good reason to believe the birds are causing a specific problem, he is free to shoot them without seeking an individual licence to do so, as would have been necessary in the past.

The world’s most widespread wild parrot species, the ring-necked parakeet was first recorded successfully breeding in the wild in England in 1969. A population is believed to have been established with birds that escaped from aviaries and others released by sailors returning from the tropics. The British breeding population is now estimated to be 4,700 pairs and it is expanding steadily; the bird has reached as far north as the Scottish border.

Concerns about it have long been voiced. Aggressive, and a hole-nester, it is thought it might drive out British hole-nesting species such as woodpeckers. It also causes major crop damage, especially to fruit trees, on its native range. Tony Juniper, the former director of Friends of the Earth who is one of the world’s leading authorities on parrots, once said it had the potential to be “the grey squirrel of the skies.”

Natural England said today the parakeet and the other three birds had been added to the “general licence” as a precautionary part of its non-native species strategy. “This is not about telling people to go out and kill them but it is about facilitating people to control them if they've got a good reason to do so,” a spokesman said. “This is acknowledging that these are birds which can cause problems.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds today displayed what might be described as an uncomfortable acceptance of the move. “We can see why Natural England have put these species on the general licence, for good conservation reasons,” said Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s conservation director. “Non-native species cause problems for native wildlife across the globe, sometimes leading to species extinctions. At the moment these species aren’t causing conservation problems in the UK, but they might in future. However, you still need a legitimate reason under the general licence to kill them."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk