Nature Trail: Have you seen a free flying Rose-ringed Parakeet?

The Rose-ringed Parakeet is slim-bodied, green in colour with a bright red, parrot-like bill, and a very long, narrow tail.

Jim Hurley

The Rose-ringed Parakeet, a foreign parrot native to Africa and India, was first reported flying wild in Ireland in 1998. It is not known how that individual got here; the speculation at the time was that it was probably someone’s pet that had escaped or was no longer wanted and had been deliberately released.

By 2010, sightings of birds were reported from eleven counties in the Republic most notably in counties Cork, Wexford, Wicklow, Meath, and Dublin. There were unconfirmed reports of juvenile birds being present suggesting that the parrots were breeding. Birds were also reported from three counties in Northern Ireland. Feral birds are common across Europe and further afield.

Consequently, the strong suspicion was, and still is, that the species is now established in Ireland and that the birds are breeding. However, where they are breeding is largely unknown. To better understand what is going on, BirdWatch Ireland have issued an appeal for people to report any sightings of Rose-ringed Parakeets together with a photo if possible.

In the past the species was popular in the pet trade and feral populations have now become established worldwide. Being originally from warmer climes, escaped or released birds are attracted to towns and cities because of the milder micro-climates they support.

While the species may be seen as an attractive addition to our bird fauna, it is feared, based on evidence elsewhere in Europe, that these parakeets will displace native cavity-nesting species from nest sites and outcompete smaller species at feeders.

The parakeet is a bird that cannot easily be confused with any wild bird found in Ireland. It is slim-bodied, green in colour with a bright red, parrot-like bill, and a very long and very narrow tail. It has a rose-coloured ring around its neck. The ring is feint in females and young birds but in adult males it is a well-defined black line edged with a rosy-pink fringe. The male also has a small black bib under its bill as shown above.

It is more than twice the size of any of our native greenish finches. The combination of colours makes it an attractive and handsome bird to some. To others it is an unwelcome and unwanted invasive alien pest with a very loud, and very unattractive squawking call. Is the species is breeding successfully?