Ring-necked parakeets might take over London
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2006:
LONDON–Ring-necked parakeets, brought
to Britain from India as exotic pets in Victorian
times, formed feral populations in London in the
early 20th century. They struggled through the
cold British winters for most of 100 years before
global warming changed the climate in their favor.
The United Kingdom Phenology Network,
described by Independent environmental editor
Michael McCarthy as “a massive database of the
timing of natural events, such as oak leaves
appearing, frogs sprawning, and swallows
returning,” has established that biological
spring comes to Britain three weeks earlier now
than 40 years ago.
Despite the significance of this finding
to agriculture, forestry, and species
conservation, the British government recently
cut off funding for the Phenology Network
headquarters at Monks Wood, in Cambridgeshire,
and also axed the Centre for Ecology and
Hydrology research stations at Winfrith, in
Dorset, and Banchory, near Aberdeen.
Though the Tony Blair administration
appears reluctant to learn more about global
warming, ring-necked parakeets have taken
advantage of it to become one of the “Top 20 most
spotted birds” in much of Britain, and one of
the 10 most-spotted species in parts of London,
according to annual counts directed by the Royal
Society for the Protection of Birds.
“The RSPB predicts that the parakeet
population will more than treble in the next four
years,” reported Frances Booth of the Daily
Telegraph on January 23, 2006. “They have been
seen in almost every English county, and
occasionally in Scotland and Wales. Last year
they were recorded in 21 of London’s 32 boroughs.”
As many as 12,000 ring-necked parakeets
now inhabit London, according to RSPB estimates,
7,000 of them in the largest colony and 4,000 in
the next largest. The major colonies show signs
“Despite rising numbers, there is little
evidence of the birds causing damage, apart from
one incident at a vineyard,” Booth continued.
In Britain, ring-necked parakeets are
protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act.
As in the U.S. however, crows and other corvids
are not protected, and are often targeted, even
for alleged offenses they have nothing to do with.
Climatic change, for example, while
enabling parakeets and other southern immigrants
to extend their range, is also associated with
declines in birds who prefer a cooler climate.
Impervious to the mountain of evidence assembled
by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Royal
Society for the Protection of Birds, and other
institutions that points toward climatic factors,
the monthly magazine Sporting Shooter in February
2005 blamed magpies, who are members of the crow
family, and offered a prize to the reader who
killed the most magpies during the next five
Marie Woolf of The Independent disclosed
a day later that Tower of London raven master and
Yeoman Warder Derrick Coyle shoots as many as 12
crows a week.
“Coyle shoots birds who look ill, with
dull eyes and lank ruffled feathers, because he
fears they could spread disease to the ravens,”
wrote Woolf. “He also targets the birds who lead
the flock, to try to persuade them to disperse.
Crows who look as though they have eaten poisoned
rats are also shot, because if they die they
would be devoured by their larger carnivorous
cousins. The raven master collects their bodies
as they fall out of the treesŠThe secret culling,
disclosed to The Independent under the Freedom of
Information Act, takes place early in the
morning, before the tourists arrive.”
Supposedly Coyle shoots crows to protect
the ravens in his care. According to legend,
the British monarchy will fall if ravens ever
leave the Tower.
Crows are no more popular in Moscow and
Tokyo, but those cities practice much less
violent control methods.
After years of shooting crows and trying
to scare them off with noisemakers, to little
avail, Moscow now employs falconers to fly three
falcons and two eagles in the vicinity of Red
Square and the Kremlin.
Tokyo found in a study of 1,300 families’
waste disposal habits that while crows readily
peck into white garbage bags to seek food, they
seem to leave yellow bags alone.