In Our Backyard | Environment

This bird is upsetting the balance of Delhi’s bird population

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Rose-ringed Parakeet   | Photo Credit: Shashank Adlakha


Ironically, the pretty Rose-ringed Parakeet is also one of the most illegally traded

The next time you see good old Mithu in a cage, know that the species is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of India, 1972, making it a punishable offence to keep it captive or to trade in it as a ‘pet’. The Rose-ringed Parakeet has long been vital to aviculture (bird breeding) and the exotic pet trade industry.

Its convenient food habits (eating locally available foods) and its ability to mimic human speech made it a desirable source of entertainment. Despite the ban on trade in all Indian wild bird species in 1990-91, hundreds of these parakeets are still collected and traded. The birds are most often taken from the wild when they are still very young, ‘taming’ them to sometimes be a part of a fortune-telling trade.

The Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri), a medium-sized bird, is a widespread resident (non-migratory) across the Indian subcontinent. The bird shows sexual dimorphism, where the males and females look slightly different in physical appearance.

The male proudly exhibits its vibrant dark blue-green colour, with a black chin stripe joining the rose-coloured collar, which explains how the bird has been named. The female lacks the chin stripe and the collar. The bird has a prominent red beak and is quite vocal with its shrill kee-oh.

These birds have not only survived the onslaught of urbanisation, but have also thriven despite the limited resources in disturbed and varied habitats. They are known to be opportunistic granivores (grain-eating) and frugivores (ftuit-eating) and primarily consume dry and fleshy fruits, seeds, buds, flowers, shoots. They are strictly herbivorous.

They breed in the cavity of trees, but can be seen, though rarely, in crevices in buildings. The females occupy the cavity long before the egg is laid and the pair protects the cavity against predators and even other female parakeets. Only the females incubate the eggs and the males are responsible for feeding the female during this time. Once the eggs hatch, both parents help in keeping the nest clean to keep it free of diseases.

In urban settings, these birds often compete with other cavity nesters such as the Common Myna, Indian Grey Hornbill, and Spotted Owlets. Their communal roosting behaviour does often limit the other species and makes them move away from the vicinity, thus causing an imbalance. Because of this cavity-nesting behaviour and overlap in diet with some native birds, these birds may threaten or otherwise outnumber certain other native birds and bats in the vicinity.

It’s not just Delhi’s harsh urban conditions that the bird thrives in, it also survives low winter temperatures across the world, making it one of the most resilient birds on the planet. Farmers consider this bird most serious avian pest because of the heavy damage that they pose to agricultural crops like bajra (pearl millet), corn, rice, and sunflower. Since the 1960s, with the increase in exotic bird trade, both accidental escapes and deliberate releases have led to a swell in the population in many cities around the world. This has raised a concern for their potential involvement in native biodiversity loss.

The writer is the founder of NINOX - Owl About Nature, a nature-awareness initiative. He is the Delhi-NCR reviewer for Ebird, a Cornell University initiative, monitoring rare sightings of birds. He formerly led a programme of WWF India.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 7:06:46 AM |

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