Like in a Hitchcock movie, we can see every day in many Spanish and other European cities, increasing noisy flocks of monk parakeets flying everywhere.
The monk parakeet or gray chest parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) belongs to the Psittacidae family, it has a medium size and is native to South America (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia). It is a very social bird that makes nests with community structure, ie, a new nest may be built attached to an existing one, forming a compound with several individual compartments.
This species has become invasive throughout the world, it has been introduced in many countries due to illegal trading , and in some cases it has escaped from captivity as well as being released deliberately by the owners, considering its annoying “voice”.
But, what makes this bird to successfully establish outside its natural habitat? Studies indicate 5 main causes:
- Great adaptability: This species is easily adapts to different habitats and it manages to meet their ecological requirements and adapt to the peculiarities of the city.
- Type of nesting: they have no specialist nesting so they don’t need particular tree species for nesting. They can nest in a large number of different tree species, and they can even nest in artificial structures. In addition, the nests are used all year long which is a good protection against the weather and predators.
- Food: monk parakeet has adapted to different types of food and much of this food is provided by man.
- Reproductive success: one or two clutches. A large number of chickens get to fly. Also they breed throughout the year.
- Lack of natural predators: their main predators are birds of prey, not common in cities.
The fast growth in the number of Myiopsitta monachus’s individuals can generate and generates various types of ecological, economic (related to agriculture) and health problems (they are vector of parasites and diseases of birds). Moreover, they are a very noisy species so the proximity of nests to housing in urban areas has led to frequent complaints from neighbors.
Like any exotic introduced species, the monk parakeets can alter the ecosystem they invade and this can lead to a decrease in the abundance and richness of native species through competition. Also, the gray chest parakeet produces tree defoliation due to feeding and building their nests.
Even though not all impacts in the short and long run are clear, the implementation of preventive and control actions over the population of monk parakeet is undoubtedly very important, but since it is generalist species with high adaptability its management is very complicated.
With no great results, the main control measures in Spain are the minimization of possible new leaks from the ban on trade in this species and capture in urban areas. In addition, some studies indicate that a possible measure would be to implement educational programs to try to control their populations, since much of their food is provided by humans.