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The joys and horrors of Parakeets on bird feeders

The joys and horrors of Parakeets on bird feeders, and what we’ve learnt from our customers  

If you don’t live in the south east of England, then you probably will not have had Ring-necked Parakeets visit your garden. But please read on anyway, because this colourful foreign invader from the foothills of the Himalayas appears to be spreading and, in fact, in the last week there have been several reports of a small flock in the south Manchester area.

The brief history of this bird in the UK – which is now the most northerly breeding parrot in the world – is that a small number of caged birds escaped in the London area in 1969, then successfully bred and now the species number around 8,600 breeding pairs, with perhaps 30,000-plus individuals. And no question that a key reason for their success has been the all-year-round supply of bird food to be found in so many gardens, because without this the Parakeets’ more natural diet of fruit and berries would be hard to sustain throughout the winter months.

A question we’ve often been asked in recent years by our customers in the SE of England is how to keep flocks of marauding Parakeets off the bird feeders in their gardens. We’ve come up with a number of solutions in the past, but as we don’t get Parakeets at Vine House Farm we decided it was about time we found out more. So back last month we emailed our customers in areas of the SE where we knew Parakeets were common, and asked for their tips and experiences. We got a great response – more than 30 – so here we’ve summarised people’s views and tips as follows…

Love or hate Parakeets?

It was a mixed response on this one, but certainly there were a good number folk who enjoyed having them in their gardens. On balance though, the view was that they were going to visit gardens with feeders whether you wanted them to or not, so therefore a degree of acceptance was probably the order of the day. One specific point which a number of respondents raised is that although they liked the look of Parakeets and enjoyed them in their garden, they most certainly didn’t like their loud squawking call. In addition, the sudden arrival of a flock of Parakeets – a few accounts mentioned a figure of up to 20 at a time – will usually have the effect of frightening other birds away.

What foods do Parakeets go for?

Apparently anything! Though foods which are easy to get to are more likely to be targeted, so from this it was clear to see that type of feeder was the main factor and not the food. That said, it seems that suet blocks and balls are a particular favourite.

What sort of feeders kept them out?    

The three main types of feeder are:

Caged hanging feeders

 

Large Squirrel Buster

Ground Guard

The caged feeders prevented the Parakeets getting to foods, but of course for peanut caged feeders they also prevent larger birds and in particular Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

The Large Squirrel Buster works by the ports closing when the weight of one or more Parakeets are on the perches (the feeder allows for adjustment of the weight). However, there were several reports that the Parakeets were preventing the mechanism from closing by inserting their claws into the ports! They might actually be doing this because it’s easier to hold onto the feeder rather than a deliberate way to access the food, but either way it does work for them. And quite possibly, what started off as a way to hold on to a feeder ended up as deliberate way to keep the ports from closing, and worth noting that, along with the crow family, parrots are relatively intelligent within the bird world and are certainly capable of problem solving.

As a further measure of the above, a number of people commented that even a standard hanging tube feeder is difficult for Parakeets to hold on to, but a deliberate tactic they seemed to have learnt is to fly hard at the feeder and, effectively, shake the seed out of it onto the ground.

The Ground Guard is adjustable and will certainly keep Parakeets out, with the only real disadvantage being that even at its largest setting it will also prevent Blackbirds and Song Thrushes in.

Our view

If you live in an area where Parakeets occur and you feed the birds in your garden, then chances are you’ll get them visiting whether you want them or not. Measures can be taken to deter them and caged feeders are certainly an option, but if you only have caged feeders then:

  1. You also keep out birds such as Great Spotted Woodpeckers on hanging peanut and suet feeders.
  2. Without a bird table or ground feeder you also keep out a large number of our most loved garden birds including Robins, Blackbirds and Dunnocks.

So on balance, we think the only real answer is a mix of feeders and feeding methods, and an acceptance that at least some food is going to be taken by Parakeets if all the other species you want to attract are to also get food. This then means that you’d have some caged feeders – both hanging and ground – to allow most of your more welcome garden birds to feed in relative peace, plus some unprotected hanging feeders and unprotected ground feeders or a bird table.

For the unprotected hanging seed feeders, keeping these away from the protected feeders may also help in separating the Parakeets from other garden birds and therefore they’ll be less likely to be frightened off. In addition and if cost of seed in an issue, using a lower costs product such as VHF Mixed Seed in unprotected hanging feeders and relatively more expensive product such as VHF Ultimate Energy with Suetin the protected feeders, would certainly make sense.

We hope you’ve found this blog interesting and useful, and please do use the ‘leave a comment’ facility if you’d like to tell us your views and give us more information about our ever-growing population of Parakeets.