Don’t worry this is not a rant about lack of immigration controls. This concerns a cute little pet species of parrot that has gone feral in a big way. It is not only Madrid they are proliferating all over Spain and other parts of Europe.
They are green Quaker Parakeets also known as Monk Parakeets and the offspring of former pets that are thought to have arrived mainly from Argentina. Apparently these birds are great mimics and can repeat what you say when they want to. Not that you will get the chance to find out now that they are free from the cage and flying wild in the city.
Identified as pets gone feral as long ago as 2003 they have been thriving. Understandably too. The climate here in Madrid is absolutely perfect for them. The problem is they are a menace in more ways than one.
Not only are these birds a threat to native species – driving them from their nest sites; they are prolific breeders and the numbers seem to be increasing rapidly.
The nests they build are colonial, shared by several breeding pairs. They are the only type of parrot to build stick nests. Other types generally use holes in trees.
In 2013 the Madrid regional government declared “war” on them saying that they were going to be culled and their nests destroyed. Well there goes another political promise worth its weight in parrot shit.!! Apparently a 2013 estimate in the same year claimed that the population was 1768. (odd number to come up with but that is what I read.)
Well here in 2016 I can say for sure that within a mile radius of our house alone there are at least that many.
They now seem to be the dominant force in the parks and many other areas with trees. Basically any tree-lined street.
Noisy Little Creatures…
You hear them all the time but getting a photograph can be quite difficult. As soon as they fly into a tree they vanish into the greenery. The best place to catch them is when they go to ground to feed – but only if you are quick and there are no children in the area to spot them. They are easily startled. Another good place to photograph them is in one of the more sparsely leaved trees that line some streets outside of the parks.
Immediately identifiable, their distinctive squawks are heard over the chirps and tweets of any native species. After only a few minutes in a park it is easy to see how these birds could annoy anyone living nearby. The noise is quite intense and a lot louder than the sounds of the native birds. The sound can quickly become irritating.
How ironic to think that it was probably pet owners, irritated by the noisy character, who first released these birds. Now that there are so many of them, everyone, not just the pet owners, will be annoyed by their relentless squawking.
Dani loves parrots – when they appear in his books. He does not have the patience to wait for them to come out of the trees in the park. Even when they finally show themselves he soon scares them off by getting over-excited. So it took several visits to the local park before I could take some photos of these birds. You can hear them all the time but actually seeing them can be difficult unless they come out of the trees. Here are some photographs…
They even outnumber the pigeons. Almost invisible in the trees.
Easy enough to spot when feeding on the ground – as long as they are not in the grass.
The colonial nests are almost invisible from a distance…
…but close up we can see how large they build them.