- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 27, 2012

LE JARDIN DU ROI, Seychelles — The green parakeets that live on the tropical paradise of Seychelles fly into the bamboo stalks next to Micheleine Georges‘ 150-year-old farmhouse at dusk.

The birds are small and cute. They also are marked for death.

A project funded by the European Union aims to eradicate the Indian ringneck parakeet so a Seychelles national bird - the black parrot - may live, according to those carrying out the program. The black parrot could be wiped out by a disease that the Indian ringneck parakeet carries.

At 6:20 p.m., small packs of green parakeets begin flying up the valley to the bamboo patch beside Ms. Georges‘ house. Gliding in under a bright crescent moon in small groups of three, five or 10 birds, they whoosh into the bamboo, not far from the vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg that Ms. Georges sells to tourists.

An animal-lover, Ms. Georges has mixed feelings about the kill mission. She says it would be a “calamity” if the parakeets wiped out the nation’s black parrots, but otherwise she enjoys watching them fly in to roost for the night.

“They seem to be a part of the evening routine. You finish work, you have a beer on the deck, and you see the droves of birds coming up to the trees,” she says.

The Indian ringneck parakeet first appeared in the Seychelles in the 1970s, perhaps when a caged pet escaped or was set free, says Peter Haverson, a Briton with a novel job title: avian eradication specialist.

The population turned viable in the mid-1980s, and by the 1990s, it was recognized as a threat.

In 2000, when Mr. Haverson guesses that the population was just a couple dozen strong, the island began an awareness campaign against the birds.

Parrots in paradise

Though graceful and good-looking, the green parakeets have earned the designation of pest. They eat from residential fruit trees and commercial crops.

Perhaps of greater concern to Seychelles, they could kill off the nation’s black parrots by introducing beak and feather disease, a fatal affliction for the black parrot.

The two species don’t yet intermingle. The green parakeets are found only on the country’s main island, Mahe, while the black parrots live on Praslin, 25 miles to the northeast. That’s likely too far to fly, but biologists fear the green parakeets could hop on a ferry and land in Praslin.

The Seychelles Islands Foundation eradication project estimates that the island nation has 230 of the parakeets, a number that would rise to 3,000 birds in a decade if the birds are allowed to live.

The parakeets can grow to 16 inches, twice as big as the budgerigar parakeet, the common house pet, which grows to about 7 inches.

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