island conservation rose-ringed parakeet

Rose-ringed Parakeet a Major Problem in Kauai

The invasive Rose-ringed Parakeet is creating a problem for farmers and endangered native species.

The Rose-ringed Parakeet may not be the first animal that comes to mind when you think of an invasive species, but in recent decades the species has become as pest in Kauai, Hawaii.

The species was brought to the island from India in the 1960’s as part of the pet trade. When the birds escaped captivity, as often happens as a result of pet trade, they began to encroach on Kauai’s native ecosystem. By the 1990’s the population count reached approximately 200 birds. Today, experts estimate that there are more than 5,000.

As the population skyrocketed, the invasive birds’ impacts on agriculture, human health, and native ecosystems became a growing concern.

The species feeds on crops grown on the island, which poses a serious problem for local farmers who must now expect to lose a percentage of their crops to the birds. Despite efforts by local residents to protect their investments, the birds continue to destroy the agriculture industry. Kauai farmer Jerry Ornellas said:

It’s discouraging to realize we’re going to lose a good percentage of our crops to these birds.

island conservation rose-ringed parakeet crops

Taro field on Kauai. Credit: David Schroeder

Ornellas explained that in 2016 he lost 30 percent of his crop due to predation by the parakeet population, and is expected to increase if the species is not controlled.

The parakeets are also known to be carriers of avian malaria which can spread to endangered native birds and would have devastating impacts on these populations. Little is known about the effects of the invasive birds on native plants and animals. However, researchers believe the parakeets also feed on seeds on endangered native plants. Bill Lucey, Project Manager for the Kauai Invasive Species Committee commented:

There is not a lot of hard evidence about the birds’ impact on native plants and animals and a study is needed.

island conservation honeycreeper

Hawaiian Honeycreepers are already at risk of avian disease and invasive species. Intrusion into their habitat by Rose-ringed Parakeets enhances concerns for the survival of Hawaiian Honeycreeper species. Credit: Minette Layne

Research is necessary to understand the full effects that the parakeets have on native plants. The local community is making an effort to develop a control program to combat the economic ill-effects these birds have caused.

Featured photo: Taro fields in Kauai. Credit: Brodie Guy
Hawaii Public Radio

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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