Welwyn Hatfield: Invasion of the parakeets
- Credit: Archant
Residents across Welwyn Hatfield have been all of a flutter at the sight of an unusual and brightly coloured visitor to their gardens.
A number of readers have been in touch with the Welwyn Hatfield Times after spotting flocks of bright green parakeets - a non-native species - gathering in trees and enjoying bird table offerings.
Although a sub-tropical species, the ring-necked parakeets tend to live in colder areas and their native habitat is most likely the foothills of the Himalayas.
They were first spotted in the UK in Kent in 1971.
By the 1980s, they were also in London.
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Now the rapid breeders have even colonised Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham, although their numbers are thought to be far higher in Hertfordshire.
So are they a welcome presence in this country?
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Herts Bird Club states in its latest publication: “Opinion is divided on this species - some welcoming this colourful and noisy edition to our avifauna and others are convinced that in due course it will create problems, particularly for native species using cavities for nesting.”
Parakeets tend to nest in cavities in trees and may use old woodpecker nests.
This poses little problem for woodpeckers who can easily create a new cavity, but Nuthatches who also use these cavities are now in competition with the parakeets to find homes.
Speaking to the Welwyn Hatfield Times, Herts Bird Club member Alan Gardiner, who is a bird recorder, said: “I have one sitting on my feeder at the moment.
“They’re very noisy. They screech like mad.
“They’re easy to detect.
“There were 8,600 breeding pairs in the UK in 2011 according to figures.
“I think there could be 25,000 of them by now easily and they’re going to continue to increase.
“They’re clearly going to have some kind of impact as a non-native species.
“I can imagine some farmers wouldn’t like them around.”
Parakeets have quite strong bills and enjoy eating sweet chestnuts and other nuts.
Alan said: “I think they can be a bit aggressive on feeders.
“They’re quite large and can disrupt other birds.
“There are natural predators around for the parakeets - Sparrow Hawks and Peregrine Falcons - they would be prey for either of these species.”
Male parakeets have a reddish collar and the females are plain green.
Stanborough School dinner lady Gloria Mackintosh, 75, of Marsden Road, has been keeping a record of parakeets landing on the bird table outside her window.
Gloria said: “When I first saw them I thought I was seeing things.
“I just sat at the window watching them.
“It’s as though I am on holiday seeing these lovely birds in the garden.
“We have a lot of tiny birds that come here, but because of the big birds they’re too frightened to feed.
“The magpies see them off and the pigeons frighten them, but the green ones aren’t deterred by them.”
Gail Elliott, of Upper Green Road, Tewin, was doing some gardening when she was “disturbed by an unusual bird call”.
Gail said: “I was then surprised to see a rather large green bird sitting and calling from the top of a tree in the garden.
“Using the binoculars, I was able to identify the bird as a parakeet, and still had time to take some photos.”
Jenny Hawkins, of Woolmer Green, also got in touch with the Welwyn Hatfield Times to share pictures of parakeets in her garden.
Ingrid Marson, of Attimore Road, Welwyn Garden City, also wrote in to express her surprise at seeing five parakeets perched on a piece of children’s play equipment in her garden.
Birder Alan Gardiner added: “Welwyn Hatfield is an area where we are certainly getting records of them, Panshanger and places like that.
“The sort of place hey may go to is Stanborough Lakes and rest on the island.”
For more information about the Herts Bird Club, visit http://www.hnhs.org/herts-bird-club/home