- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - An invasive parakeet is causing health and environmental problems on Kauai, according to Hawaii officials.

The rose-ringed parakeet was introduced to the islands about 50 years ago, reported KHON-TV (http://bit.ly/2luAceR ). Kauai Invasive Species Committee member Billy Lucey said a bed-and-breakfast brought the parakeets in, clipped their wings and had them hang out around the porch. The birds then escaped and began to establish themselves at some point after 1968, Lucey said.

“What turned out to be a novelty, and something we’d kind of entertain ourselves with while we watched them roost in the evenings, turned into a nuisance once our farmers approached us and started saying, ‘Hey, as cute as these birds are, they are very destructive to our lychee and longan crops,’” said county council member Derek Kawakami.

Kathryn Fiedler of the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources said the birds not only eat up fruit crops but also contaminate fruits and vegetables.

Farmer Jerry Ornellas said parakeets caused him to lose about 30 percent of his crop in 2016, the equivalent of about $6,000. He said food safety is a big concern.

“These birds will land in the tops of the trees, they’ll poop and if any of their droppings gets onto the other fruit. even if it hasn’t been damaged by the birds, you have to discard that fruit,” said Ornellas.

According to the state, farmers sometimes use netting to protect their crops, but it’s expensive and difficult to use on plants like lychee trees.

Several agencies are searching for permanent solutions to the problems caused by parakeets. Officials are concerned about the effects of birds flying higher into the mountains and having an impact on native plants and watersheds.

“Right now, they’re in the lowland areas of Kauai,” said Thomas Kaiakapu, branch manager for the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and Forestry. “But if they start to move into the upland mountains, that’s a concern for us, because that’s where most of our native species thrive. Left unchecked and uncontrolled, the parakeet population here could explode to more than 10,000 birds in the next five years.”

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Information from: KHON-TV, http://khon.com

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