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Invasive Parakeets Disrupt Hawaii’s Agriculture

Community members look for solutions to the threat of invasive Rose-ringed Parakeets in Kauai which are impacting native wildlife and the economy.

The Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) is a species native to sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, but in the 1960’s they became a common household pet around the world. Predictably, in 1968 a pair was accidentally released onto Kauai Island, Hawaii. Along with this, the wreckage caused by 1982’s Hurricane Iwa, released more parakeets into the wild, allowing them to establish a growing population, of which has now  reached 7000 individuals.  

island-conservation-preventing-extinctions-rose-ringed-parakeet-feeding-on-dried-magnolia
A Rose-ringed Parakeet feeding on dried magnolia. Credit: stanze

Parrots are often highly destructive birds, and are well known to damage crops, private property, and natural resources.” 

USDA

These parakeets consume a wide variety of fruits and nuts, without predators, the parakeet’s population has grown exponentially. The birds swarm local farms, devouring whole crops in minutes and while farmers have used multiple defense mechanisms, the parakeets have developed  tactics to work around them.  

Rose-ringed parakeets are slow invaders. They aren’t noticed until their numbers reach a critical mass”

Aaron Shiels, National Wildlife Research Center. 

The local government have watched the parakeets become a growing nuisance and are now worried about not only their ecological impact but also the economic losses sustained from their predatory habits. 

island-conservation-preventing-extinctions-rose-ringed-parakeet-sitting-on-magnolia
Rose-ringed Parakeet siting on a Magnolia Tree. Credit: Jannis

Jerry Ornellas, an orchard farmer in southeastern Kauai, has reported losing up to 30 percent of his crops in 2016:

It depends on where you are geographically, but small farms are averaging a 10 percent loss.” 

This loss is not just a sizable blow to local farmers, but their entire agricultural economy, estimated to be worth $65 million, is suffering significantly from the parakeet plague. The Hawaiian Islands are not alone, Rose-ringed Parakeets have spread around the world, threatening ecosystems and local economies. 

Globally, the Rose-ringed Parakeet has spread to 35 countries beyond its native habitats – few as adversely affected as Israel, where up to 50,000 birds devour wine grapes, dates, sunflower seeds, and nearly half the yearly almond harvest.” 

Sara Novak, Modern Farmer

Now, community members in Kauai are working with local governments and researchers to find effective approaches to removing the parakeets, protecting native ecosystems and agriculture. 

Sources:
The Garden Island
Diets of Kauai’s invasive rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri): evidence of seed predation and dispersal in a human-altered landscape, USDA
Modern Farmer

About Nicholas Scott

Nick is an undergraduate Marine Biology student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Having spent his life exploring the ocean on California’s coast, he developed a passion and respect for it, that demanded him to pursue his interest in conservation. Volunteering for the communications team allows him to further his interests and gain more insight as to how to resolve the state of the world around us. In his spare time, Nick enjoys surfing, swimming, and spending time with friends.

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