The monk or Quaker parakeet is a small, parrot-like bird originating from South America where they are trapped in huge numbers and sold to the pet trade. They should not be confused with the larger, more prolific rose-ring or ring-necked parakeet, which has a distinctive red bill and black ring around its neck.
Monk parakeets have been living in the wild in Borehamwood and elsewhere, notably the Isle of Dogs, for many years and have barely increased in number during that time. Feral monk parakeets were first seen in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire in 1993, having been released during a burglary.
DEFRA wants to eradicate the feral population and has gone against what they said publicly (i.e. to remove these birds from the wild using non lethal methods) and instead are culling them. DEFRA is saying that monk parakeets could pose a threat to crops, other species and electricity pylons yet have not produced sound evidence for this scenario. To date the monk parakeets have not done any damage or interfered with native species. A large proportion of the residents of Borehamwood and many in the UK and elsewhere are outraged by the action of DEFRA.
You can download our report here
You can download DEFRA's here - seems to have lots of heresay but no hard facts or documented evidence!
Hertsmere Borough Executive meeting on the 9th November at we we presented our case for the council to retain its ban on DEFRAs policy of removing these attractive birds from Council land went fairly well: Hertsmere will only countenance activity by DEFRA if they provide full and convincing justification for each incursion. You can see the relevant part of the minutes here.
Read the Borehamwood & Elstree Times article.
Webcast of whole Executive meeting
You can sign our petition here
Last night at the Hertsmere Borough Council Executive meeting the issue of DEFRA culling monk parakeets on Council owned land was discussed. Papers in support of and against DEFRA's actions had been submitted by DEFRA and the campaigners to save the feral monk parakeets respectively.
Simon Richardson, joined by co-campaigner Christine Brock trying to save the feral monk parakeets from eradication, spoke for 10 minutes in defence of the birds. Four Borough Councillors from both sides of the Chamber spoke in support of the campaign. DEFRA did not attend the meeting which the Leader of the Council said was "frustrating".
The campaigners were delighted that the Council have now denied DEFRA any automatic right to enter Council owned land to cull and refused permission for ANY FURTHER SHOOTING of the birds on Council owned land. Any future decision to allow DEFRA to enter council owned land to remove the birds will be considered ON A CASE BY CASE BASIS by the appropriate Council environmental officers. DEFRA will have to make a very good case on public health grounds to enter council owned land and if and when they do and are allowed access NO SHOOTING will be permitted. Any work undertaken to remove nests and birds must be by approved contractors under veterinary supervision and where possible all birds and nestlings must be taken to nearby aviaries.
Simon Richardson commented "I am very pleased to see that shooting in our parks and woodlands has been prohibited and that in future DEFRA will have to make a very convincing case, with supporting evidence, each and every time they wish to carry out any activities against the monk parakeets on Council owned land. Our Council has listened carefully to all the arguments and evidence presented and acted where they can to ensure the birds are
treated humanely. We thank them for this ethical stance. It should not be
forgotten that the birds are still in danger from DEFRA's shooting and culling operations in private gardens in Hertsmere and elsewhere in the UK. Our campaign to save the feral monk parakeet and halt DEFRA's eradication programme nationally therefore continues. I hope our Council's sensible decisions set a precedent for other local authorities and influence any private individuals against allowing DEFRA access to their property to destroy the birds"
Christine Brock adds:
" I am delighted that the Council have listened to their constituents, thousands of whom have voiced their concerns over Defra's actions. I hope now, thanks to the reasonable and humane decision the Council has made, these charming and harmless birds will remain a permanent fixture in Borehamwood."
Another website with information
The Monk Parakeet
(Myiopsitta monachus Boddaert 1783)
Todd S. Campbell
The Institute for Biological Invasions
Quite possibly, the massive exportation of monk parakeets from Argentina in the 1980s was justified by their status as pests. But while parrots possess some of the morphological and behavioral adaptations characteristic of avian pest species (e.g., generalist feeding strategies), most parrots do not fit the overall profile of pest species, and the damage to agricultural crops tends to be exaggerated by farmers worldwide. Moreover, such damage is usually related to, or entirely explained by, poor agricultural practices of humans, rather than aggressive foraging by monk parakeets, and motivation for eliminating the birds is often political. Clearly, conflicts between native monk parakeets and humans will continue to escalate as humans continue to expand into forested habitats and bring agriculture along (Bucher and Nores 1988).
Mr. John Davey, President of the Quaker Parakeet Society, has forwarded your correspondence to me for additional review. I am on the Board of Directors of QPS and am a trial attorney (barrister) for a large city in Florida. I am accustomed to rebutting points made by others in a public forum. After reviewing DEFRA's position, and having recently worked with others refuting the position of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission in order to successfully lift the ban on Quakers in that state, I see many of the same baseless assertions being made by DEFRA. These birds are said to possess the intelligence of a 2 year old human child. They easily learn to speak human language and then use it very often in context rather than simply "parroting" what is said to them. Example: Several years ago, a pet Quaker in the state of Colorado was given the Red Cross Animal Hero Award for saving a toddler from choking on a PopTart by calling out to its owner the words, "Mama,Baby! Mama, Baby!" Thereby summoning help when the bird saw the child in distress and turning blue. The bird had never put those two words together before that day. This is an animal that should be carefully considered before eradicating it.
First, just because a plant, animal, or person is "non-native," this does not automatically mean it is "invasive." Those words are not synonymous in science. It is an assumption on DEFRA's part that the Quaker is "invasive" and will cause damage to something. Do they have any proof or is this a case of kill it now just in case? Many non-native creatures live quite harmoniously in their new environment and add benefit to it. Many animals that we think of as native are not as they were transplanted or migrated so long ago. In the United States, particularly in Florida and Texas where Quakers have lived happily in feral flocks for 20 -40 years, there has been no evidence that they have displaced any native species or are responsible for noticeable crop damage. There has never been any evidence that they are agricultural pests in the US. (They also live in smaller numbers in NY, New Jersey, and Illinois in urban environments, as well as in some other southern states.) Quakers, being the only parrot that builds its own nest, does not compete with native species for nesting sites. Each pair attaches its nest to that of the rest of the flock and they live together in a birdy condominium, so to speak. (I guess they prefer a flat to a house.)
DEFRA report: "...economic cost on a range of human enterprises, including agriculture, forestry, fisheries and infrastructure as well as posing a threat to human health." Admittedly, the large nests have on occasion presented a problem for utility companies when the nests are built on electrical poles. Nevertheless, those instances are very rare as the birds do prefer trees, and so such rare occurrence does not warrant slaughter of these very intelligent creatures. When a nest is built, the power company can remove it, hopefully in late summer or early fall when there are no eggs or fledglings in the nest and it won't leave the birds out in the cold. THAT would be the most humane thing. It has also been found that a Quaker nest on a city building has its advantages. The Quakers tend to shoo the pigeons away and whereas the chemical makeup of pigeon poop eats away at the building surface over time, Quaker excrement does not. As for a threat to human health, there is no evidence whatsoever that Quakers are inclined to carry diseases, and in fact, the report on Quakers included on the Florida Wildlife Commission website notes that they have been found to be remarkably free of disease.
I am not familiar with how the American grey squirrel has threatened the red squirrel, but Quakers are not aggressive toward other species of bird, they do not compete for nest sites as previously mentioned, and they tend to look for food in backyard bird feeders and for other food supplied by humans. They are smart birds and it's easier than hunting for food although that is done, but they do not venture far from the nest to do so. Therefore, they are not competing on a great scale with native birds for food in the wild. Their food most often depends on humans for supply, particularly in urban areas.
Their natural increase in numbers will be checked by hawks, owls, and other raptors, as well as cats. The birds cannot survive in extremely cold conditions, either, as they are native of Argentina, and a particularly cold winter in Britain will likely wipe them out.
"· The decision to remove monk parakeets from the wild was taken after considering all the evidence on the threat they pose to economic interests (primarily utilities and agriculture both in their native range and areas where they have been introduced)...." DEFRA will find no evidence of Quakers being a threat to agriculture. This is a myth, an urban (or rather, farm) legend that has floated around for many years. Farmers in South America, hoping to get greater government subsidies for their crops, greatly exaggerated damage done to crops by Quakers and other wildlife. If such was the case, then there would be some evidence of the same thing happening in Florida, a very large agricultural state (oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, bananas, tangerines, corn, sweet potato, lettuce, onions, mushrooms, cabbage, blueberries, limes, bell pepper, cantaloupe, among others). Though feral Quakers have lived in Florida for 40+ years, the State Agricultural Commission has no reports of crop damage from Quakers. Tell DEFRA to call the FL Agricultural Commission, Division of Fruits and Vegetables, and talk to Charles Beasley, who has worked there for 28 years. He told me that he has never heard of one complaint about Quakers and crops. (I called them last spring when we were working to lift the ban in NH and asked him.)
DEFRA: "...a peer-reviewed Risk Assessment for the species. The Risk Assessment made clear that this species is capable of causing severe local damage to crops and of causing damage to artificial structures as a result of colonial nest building." I would have to ask what evidence this peer review relied upon to make their assessment. I am not aware that ANY scientific evidence of that exists. The peers are simply accepting what they are told. Any written materials suggesting that Quakers cause crop damage are always relying upon those "farm legends" from So. America with no date and no specific source. They repeat the rumor over and over without independent evidence. Lastly, as an American, I can't help but state that it is rather ironic that any arm of the British government would criticize any creature for "colonial nest building." The British invented that. (No offense to you intended.)
I have one pet Quaker, and therefore, I do not consider shooting a perfectly healthy and non-food source bird to be any more "humane" than shooting a healthy dog, cat, horse or canary that is going about its life and not bothering anyone. "All despatch will be by accepted humane methods appropriate to the species and approved by an independent veterinary surgeon and Fera‟s Ethical Review Process." Yeah, sure! Ask what specific training the trappers have had regarding safety of the birds and the handling of eggs and babies. Do they just smash the eggs in front of their parents? What type of gun is intended to be used? Are they going to be shooting inside the town? That is ridiculous and dangerous. It really doesn't matter what type of firearm is employed if the person shooting it is a rotten shot. Tell the City Council they should ask for a marksmanship demonstration to ensure that these crazy Quaker hunters don't accidentally hit the wrong targets or simply wound rather than kill swiftly.
DEFRA: "No monk parakeets were observed to approach a ladder/crow trap when it was provisioned with either food baits, playback of recorded monk parakeet vocalisations, live decoys or nest material. Similarly, no parakeets approached a baited (food or nest material) whoosh net." This makes me laugh. They are much too smart for that. Only some of a flock are nest builders. The others are sentinels and have no interest in picking up nest materials.
DEFRA: "Of the five birds not transferred to captivity, four were humanely despatched and one died during capture (all in Borehamwood)." I will have to assume those 4 were marched to the birdy gas chamber.
Best of luck to you. If the QPS can help in any way, be sure to let us know.
QPS--Secretary and Asst to the Chair of the Quaker Rescue, Adoption and Placement Program PS--The QPS publishes and sells a calendar every year featuring pictures of Quakers.
Mike Avery et al. Conducted this research that shows contraception can be used effectively:
Diazacon Inhibits Reproduction in Invasive Monk Parakeet Populations
MICHAEL L. AVERY,*, CHRISTI A. YODER2, ERIC A. TILLMAN The Journal of Wildlife Management
Volume 72, Issue 6, pages 1449–1452, August 2008
Abstract: Throughout the United States, managers lack safe, effective methods to control expanding populations of the invasive monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus). Because the reproductive inhibitor diazacon (20,25 diazacholesterol) has been used effectively in captive monk parakeets, we provided diazacon-treated sunflower seeds to birds at electric utility substations inhabited by parakeets in south Florida, USA. Nest productivity (nestlings plus eggs with embryos) averaged 1.31 (SE = 0.45, n = 100 nests) at 6 treated sites compared to 4.15 (SE = 0.68, n = 50 nests) at 4 untreated sites, a 68.4% reduction. Exposure of native bird species to treated bait was infrequent. Diazacon is an effective means to reduce reproductive success of monk parakeets, and development of methods to limit exposure of nontarget birds will enable more widespread use of this useful population management technique.