Pesky parrots invade skies over Spain
THEY may be cute, colourful and chatty but South American quaker parrots have taken up residence in Madrid and other Spanish cities, irritating residents with their shrill squawks and destabilising the ecosystem.
The small, bright green and grey-breasted birds - also known as monk parakeets - first arrived in Spain in cages as entertaining pets. But some either escaped or were let loose, getting their first taste of freedom in the green, leafy Spanish capital - and then proliferated.
Maria Moreno, who lives in the Los Carmenes district in south-western Madrid, said she noticed them several years ago.
A pair of parrots chose the area as their home, and enjoyed it so much that there are now a dozen parakeets who fight among themselves and compete for food with pigeons, sparrows and magpies.
"The noise and mess they make is awful," she noted, adding "they urinate on cars" as she watched the parrots fly to and from trees along her road.
Some districts of Madrid, as well as parks such as Casa de Campo or the Retiro, are full of the birds which originate from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia.
They build communal nests that weigh up to 50kg, mostly in trees, but also in electric pylons. To build these nests, the parrots tear thousands of branches off trees, at times leaving them nearly bare.
"It causes a significant deterioration in the health of the tree, and some dry up," said Blas Molina, an expert at the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO).
According to research by the society, there were about 20,000 quaker parrots in Spain last year, many of them in Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga on the south-east coast.
Meanwhile, Paris, Rome and London have large colonies of ring-necked parakeets, which come from Asia and Africa and are also deemed aggressive towards other birds.
Jose Luis Postigo, a researcher at the University of Malaga and an expert on quaker parrots, said the species is "very adaptable". It can live in a warm country like Spain and in the colder climates of Brussels or Chicago, adapting by building thicker nest walls.
Classified as an invasive species, Spanish authorities are allowed to cull them, and in 2011 sales of the bird were banned in the country.
Salvador Florido, head of environmental health surveillance at Malaga's city hall, said with the arrival of quaker parrots, there were now "fewer varieties (of birds) due to competition for food".