European network on invasive parakeets: Understanding invasion dynamics and risks to agriculture and society

Project Details


As a member of ParrotNet, Dr Rachel White undertook a Short-Term Scientific Mission (STSM) based at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (hosted by Dr Julia Schroeder) where she assisted in the development of the European Monitoring Centre for invasive parrot species through the identification and consolidation of core data – specifically the collection and review of demographic, temporal and spatial data concerning parakeets in Europe from multiple sources.

She then led and co-ordinated (in collaboration with Dr Assaf Shwartz, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology) a literature review assessing the impacts of alien and invasive parrots on European agro-economy society and wildlife.


Invasive alien parakeets pose a number of risks to Europe’s economy and society, which worryingly are likely to increase as global climate change creates a warmer Europe. First, they pose a risk to agriculture. Farming practices will increasingly have to adapt to warmer climates; for example, maize, pecan nuts and sunflower will become more popular crops as mean temperatures rise. Parakeets are widely documented as being a pest of these crops, reducing maize yields by up to 81 per cent in their native range. 

Furthermore, parakeets raid and cause significant damage to orchards and vineyards, sectors also set to expand as climates warm and which already note significant parakeet damage. Therefore, climate-driven expansion of parakeet populations across Europe will place increasing pressure on the economy. 
Second, parakeets pose a disease risk. These birds have the potential to transmit notifiable diseases to livestock and humans, such as psittacosis (‘parrot fever’ in humans, which is the primary cause of abortion in sheep), Newcastle’s Disease and avian influenza. Their capacity to do so may increase as their populations grow in size and density (they can form very large roosts, providing opportunities for widespread disease transmission). 

Nevertheless, calls for culling are often unpopular: many people like having green parrots in their cities/gardens, regarding them as a harmless ornament. Therefore, parakeets attract both strong public support and concern, representing a complex socio-environmental conflict.Research activities on parakeets have, so far, been isolated from one another, limiting any scope for wider synthesis to address the parakeet problem across Europe and beyond. The use of multiple methods makes it difficult to harmonise approaches across the EU landscape. Consequently, results cannot be generalised and knowledge gaps cannot be easily identified and filled. Therefore, current efforts to characterise agro-economic and societal impacts (and to forecast risks) of parakeets across Europe and the means to mitigate them are severely compromised. 

More broadly, a spatial, temporal and societal perspective of invasion is sadly lacking, but is crucial to address, understand and solve the ‘alien species problem’. The Action will tackle these complex interdisciplinary issues for the parakeet and thereby develop an approach for dealing with the 12 other invasive parrot species recently established in Europe.

ParrotNet is led by Dr Jim Groombridge (DICE, University of Kent). It is an EU COST funded project (ES1304) consisting of a network of over 80 active researchers, practitioners and policy makers from more than 16 European countries - all interested in investigating the spread, impacts, evolutionary characteristics and social perceptions of non-native parrots and dedicated to research on invasive parrots, their impacts and the challenges they present. 

This network is working to better understand why parakeets are highly successful invaders, how we can predict their agricultural, economic, societal and ecological impacts across Europe, and the means to mitigate them, and to assist policy-makers with managing the challenges that Invasive Alien Species pose.Specifically, ParrotNet aims to:>better understand why some species such as parakeets are highly successful invaders,>harmonise methodologies to predict agricultural, economic, societal and ecological impacts across Europe, and the means to mitigate them,>create a virtual European Monitoring Centre for all invasive parrot species, and transfer results to policy and society.

Key findings

The Action will strengthen Europe’s scientific networking capacity in IAS in relation to the European Research Area, and will fulfil key objectives of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy (and more widely, Europe 2020) and will stimulate novel research for EU-level instruments such as Horizon 2020.

White, R.L. (2014). Development of the European Monitoring Centre through identification and consolidation of core data. Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM) final report for EU-COST Action ES1304 (ParrotNet).
Short titleParrotnet
Effective start/end date1/01/1231/12/16


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