During the month of November, the Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA) is asking citizens throughout Portugal to take part in a citizens science initiative by simply going for a walk in their local parks in the evenings and reporting back if they see any rose-ringed parakeets (Psittacula krameri). This will hopefully provide important information for the first national rose-ringed parakeet census which will be carried out this winter.
A little background...
The 'periquito-de-colar', as they are called in Portuguese, are a species originally from sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, however, nowadays it's not unusual to find them flying around numerous European cities, such as London, Madrid and Lisbon. These birds, who originally escaped from captivity, have managed to adapt remarkably well to city life, finding food, refuge and suitable places to nest in the various trees and parks around the cities. This is all very well and gives the parks a rather surprising and charming tropical vibe, but SPEA wants to make sure that the populations don’t grow too much as it could have a negative effect on the native species as they compete for food and nesting sites.
The rose-ringed parakeets have been found in Portugal since the late 1970s. In 2008, the national population of this species was estimated at 270 individuals. Since then the population has increased, with a more recent estimate of around 650 rose-ringed parakeets in Lisbon alone (Quinta das Conchas and Jardim da Estrela being particularly good places to observe the species). There are also established populations in Porto, Coimbra, Caldas da Rainha and the Azores.
The species feeds on fruits, grains, seeds, berries and flowers and, perhaps the key to their success here in Portugal, is that they have been observed happily tucking into citrus fruits, pomegranates, figs, loquats and olives
Although there is still no data on the impact of the rose-ringed parakeet on the native biodiversity in Portugal, in Spain there is some evidence of negative impacts. They have been known to compete with native species of bats and owls for cavities in the trees to make their nests, and also with some other fruit eating birds for food.
How to identify the rose-ringed parakeet
Rose-ringed parakeets are noisy and gregarious birds and so they shouldn't be too hard to locate. They are generally green in colour, with a long pointed tail (with bluish-green central feathers) and a red beak. Males have a characteristic black and pink collar.
How to participate
Take a walk to any garden or green space after 4:30 pm, and take note of the parakeets you observe. Also, if you can, try to understand if they are feeding or gathering in a tree to rest. Record what you find and follow this link to report your discoveries and find out more: www.spea.pt/en/challenge-search-for-parakeets/