Feathered foes on the march as farmers prepare for battle

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Monk parakeets look cute, but can devastate certain crops.

MANY readers will be familiar with the demented screeching of the escaped monk parakeets that have become established along some parts of the Costa in recent years, following their arrival to Spain as pet cage birds.

Although noisy, the avian invaders have not been considered to present any ecological issues beyond competition with urban pigeons, but now they are expanding their horizons into agricultural zones where subtropical produce such as mango and avocado is grown.

In their native Argentina and Uruguay, the little green parrots are notorious crop pests, devouring cereals and fruits, and causing issues with municipal electricity supplies as they fortify their huge communal nests atop utility poles.

Around 3,000 individuals are thought to be present in Malaga Province at present, but this is likely to double in less than four years with potentially grave consequences for local farmers.

This year has seen the first records in Alhaurin de la Torre, Alhaurin el Grande and Alora Station in the Guadalhorce Valley, while a nest has also been spotted near the Provincial Government’s nursery in Benamocarra.

Antonio Roman Muñoz, a biologist and author from the University of Malaga, has decided to raise the alarm.

“There are only a few pairs this year, but let’s see how many there are in five,” he said, adding “to control the expansions now would be easy, but within 10 years it could be impossible.”

Hunting the birds is now legal in Catalunya and the Balearics due to devastation of crops after they spread beyond urban limits.

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