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French birds threatened by African parakeet invasion

Growing numbers of ring-necked parakeets may be threatening native birds and habitats, but authorities are yet to create a plan of action to halt their spread.

The ring-necked parakeets (known in French as perruches à collier, and sometimes called 'rose-necked' in English) are believed to have be brought over from tropical forests in Africa to France in the 1970s by wealthy collectors, when it became fashionable to own exotic birds.

Having largely arrived via customs in Orly airport, France, many of them would go on to escape, breed, and make nests in local trees and parks. Sceaux park at Sceaux Castle, around six miles (10km) south of Paris, is said to be home to 90 nests alone.

Over half of the 8,000-10,000 in France are said to be in Ile-de-France, with their number having multiplied by 100 in the last 30 years.

The parakeets, which reproduce very easily and quickly, are said to present a threat to the French ecosystem and to native birds and animals, including blue tits, small rodents and bats, because their nests are not habitable for other species. They have even been known to hunt rare animals such as the red squirrel.

Parakeets also steal other animals’ food, and take over their nests, while their droppings can even ruin crops (in Israel, it’s said that parakeet droppings in sunflower fields often ruin up to 70% of the crop). In France, they are usually found attacking private gardens and allotments, and have the ability to almost destroy cherry and apple trees.

Biodiversity experts have called for a plan of action, to ensure that the birds’ numbers do not get out of control, or reach the threatening numbers seen elsewhere.

In London, it is said that there are 30,000 parakeets, with the species beginning to affect cereal crops and fields. Since 2008, Londoners have even been allowed to shoot the birds, without requiring a license first.

In France, proposals centre on the idea of capturing or sterilising - rather than killing - the birds, along with more stringent laws on the selling and trading of them. Proposals have stopped short of a total ban, with officials fearing that making the birds illegal to trade will simply increase their value on the black market.

There is still some public objection to the measures, however, with many people finding the bright birds to be beautiful, and “preferring them to pigeons”, according to ornithologist Philippe Clergeau, speaking to newspaper France 3.

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