Denby Fawcett: These beautiful birds that roam Oahu are loud, steal fruit, and poop


At 6:15 am sharp each morning, about 60 ring-necked parakeets fly over my house, screaming and squealing as they spin a couple of times before plunging into the ocean, then zooming high in the sky again before disappearing over the edge. by Diamond Head.

This is one of my pandemic activities, watching the loud green parakeets while I zoom strength training on our patio.

Driven by the curiosity to learn more about birds, I discovered that there are many reasons why we should hate them. They eat commercial crops of fruit and corn, destroy mangoes in residents’ gardens, poop on cars, and disturb the peace with their loud chatter. They spread seeds of invasive plants and could have a detrimental effect on native wildlife.

There is no active effort to control their growing numbers on Oahu and there does not appear to be the will to initiate any sort of large-scale management program here.

The birds look more like parrots, bigger than the full sized parakeets that we had as pets when we were kids. They are known as the Collared or Collared Parakeet because of the black and pink feathers around the necks of the males. They come from South Asia and were first sighted in Oahu in the 1930s.

Biologist Aaron B. Shiels estimated in an email that there are currently around 10,000 ring-necked parakeets on Oahu and that each year their population is expected to increase by 21%, as it has been doing every year for more. of a decade.

Shiels says, “The level of damage they cause to Oahu can certainly be reduced through management actions” – such actions could include killing and trapping them.

Shiels is a research biologist for the US Department of Agriculture, National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado.

He says that although the number of birds may be reduced on Oahu, extermination of the population is unlikely. He knows only one island, Mahé in the Seychelles, where the population of 545 ring-necked parakeets has been successfully exterminated.

Parakeets are reported in Kapiolani Park, Manoa, Waimanalo, Waipio, and Mililani.

“They pose a significant threat to Oahu’s agricultural industry. We need to find new strategies to manage this pest before it becomes a widespread problem, ”said Jari Sugano, Oahu County Administrator for the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Shiels and Nicholas Kalodimos, in an article in the journal Pacific Science, called the birds “strikingly beautiful” but “unwanted invaders”. In Hawaii, they are classified as “nuisance wildlife”. They don’t have effective predators here.

Anecdotal reports of their damage to crops and property on Oahu are plentiful.

Lynn Tsuruda, who owns Frankie’s Nursery in Waimanalo with her husband Frank Sekiya, says ring-necked parakeets are invading large gangs, melting down to wipe out a rambutan in a day.

Tsuruda says two of his hunting friends offered to shoot the birds, but they only managed to kill two in a whole day.

“When the birds saw the hunters, they flew higher and higher,” she said. “They are very smart. They were hovering high above us, screaming like they’re laughing at us.

The hunters said it was useless for them to come back.

Ring-necked parakeets working in large groups can quickly eat most mangoes on a single tree. Courtesy of: Nicholas Kalodimos

Tsuruda says their only recourse now is to try and pick the fruit quickly before the birds get there.

Diamond Head owner Shayne Stambler says parakeets have ruined most of her rapoza mango tree crops this summer.

Stambler said, “I don’t mind sharing some of my fruit with the birds, but the parakeets came in and started eating them while they were still green, taking a single bite of a green mango and were moved on to the next mango to take another bite, then another mango, slowly destroying all the fruit on the tree.

To try and deter them, she pulled out a plastic owl with a rotating head. When that failed, she hung reflective mylar strips on the branches of the mango tree, and eventually she tried to scare the birds away with a big balloon with big eyes painted on it, but nothing worked.

Diamond Head resident Shayne Stambler pulled out a plastic owl and detonated a balloon
Diamond Head resident Shayne Stambler pulled out a plastic owl and detonated a “scary” balloon, but the parakeets were not deterred and continued to eat her mangoes. Courtesy of: Shayne Stambler

“That’s when I realized I had to pluck all the remaining mangoes before they were even fully ripe,” she said.

Manoa’s Kristin McAndrews says parakeets are a nuisance to poop, defecating all over her car. She says, “They are smart. When you yell at them, they scream like they’re talking to you. “

Some Manoa parakeets are believed to roost in a large banyan tree in Lin Yee Chung Chinese cemetery.

Collared parakeets’ droppings are a health and safety concern, the Shiels say, carrying disease and attracting ants, cockroaches and mice.

Until now, invasive parakeets have been a government concern primarily in Kauai where, after a few were released from a bed and breakfast in Lawai in the early 1960s, the population has exploded exponentially over the years. decades to reach about 20,000.

That is, until last spring, when Kauai County donated $ 25,000 to the nonprofit Poipu Beach Foundation, which hired hunters from Kani Wildlife Control, LLC.

The birds not only harmed agricultural crops, but also massed in the tourist areas of West Kauai where they defecated in resort areas and tourist rental cars.

In Lihue at the Kukuki Grove Center, a particularly aggressive parakeet swooped down in an attempt to grab an ice cream cone from a child, according to Wade Lord, who was then the mall’s asset manager.

With state permits, hunters in Kauai used high-powered air rifles to kill nearly 10,000 of the pesky creatures as they perched in trees in the Koloa-Poipu tourist resort area. , according to Nalani Brun.

The bodies of the dead birds were frozen to study their DNA and learn more about their habits.

Brun is the director of the Kauai County Economic Development Office. She says parakeets have decimated Kauai’s growing tropical fruit and corn businesses.

“The community here loves farming,” Brun said. “People want farmers to prosper. The pandemic gave us the perfect opportunity with the tourists gone to come and start slaughtering the budgie populations. “

She now says that they are in the process of obtaining permits to cut down the parakeet populations in the coconut groves of Kapaa.

Tropical fruit grower Jerry Ornellas said parakeets destroy 10% to 25% of the lychee and longan crops every year on his 15-acre farm at Kapaa Homesteads.

“Parakeets are just the latest in a long line of invasive species that farmers face in Hawaii,” said Ornellas, former chairman of the Kauai County Farm Bureau. “The sad thing is that this happened when tropical fruits were fast becoming one of the rising stars of agricultural production here.”

This ring-necked parakeet is in a nest in Washington Place.  Birds nest in tree hollows.
This ring-necked parakeet is in a nest in Washington Place. Birds nest in tree hollows. Courtesy of: Laurie Carlson

The Kauai Parakeet Control Project was initiated after the Hawaii Legislature in 2016 allocated $ 350,000 to fund the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Wildlife Research Center to study and propose scientific methods long term to reduce parakeet populations in Kauai.

Jane Anderson of Texas A&M University-Kingsville led the study currently under final review. The results are expected to be made public by the end of this year or early next year.

It’s probably impossible now to eliminate ring-necked parakeets from Kauai, but the goal is to have a lasting impact by severely reducing their numbers to a manageable level, says Tiffani Keanini, head of the Kauai Invasive Species Committee.

“They are very intelligent birds, able to adapt to controls, so it will take several methods that are modified from time to time to work,” she said.

Keanini, a member of the group leading the research, says the goal is to use what they learned from the study to help guide parakeet reduction projects on all of the islands.

The island of Hawaii has only a small population of birds, mostly in the Puna District.

But in July, for the first time in more than a decade, ring-necked parakeets were detected on Maui after resident Joe Ward reported a parakeet eating seeds at a bird feeder in the Napili area and was able to capture it. Four other parakeets are still on the run in West Maui.

Maui Department of Lands and Natural Resources biologist Fern Duvall estimates there are likely fewer than nine ring-necked parakeets on Maui, which he says need to be exterminated before they have a chance to breed.

Parakeets can live 10 to 20 years and are prolific breeders.

Duvall says the main problem with ring-necked parakeets is that people like them because they are beautiful.

“They aren’t horrible like stinging little ants or have mean mongoose faces. But even so, they’re out of place, an invasive species that doesn’t belong to Hawaii, ”he said.

Adam Knox, director of operations for the Maui Invasive Species Committee, said, “We’re at a lucky point where we have a good chance of getting rid of it altogether. “

It’s a shame that nothing is done on Oahu to try to control the invasive Rose-ringed Parakeets when there is still a chance.

Maui biologist Duvall, who has worked with the birds for more than 25 years, calls the lack of attention on Oahu “a missed opportunity to remove parakeets when their numbers are still relatively small.”


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