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Malaga park's parrot invasion continues as new species is discovered

Scaly-headed parrot.
Scaly-headed parrot. / A. Román
  • Researchers from Malaga university have discovered an example of a South American Scaly-headed parrot breeding in the city

The city's parks have been home to non-native species of birds for several years now and the colony of Monk parakeets, which are everywhere, continues to grow. Now a pair of Scaly-headed parakeets (Pionus Maximiliani) have been spotted flitting through the trees and they have a chick in their nest.

They were discovered by Antonio Román, an ornithologist and lecturer in the Animal Biology Department of Malaga university. The Scaly-headed parrot originates from South America and the discovery, according to the expert, is extremely important as this is the first time that the parrot has been found living wild outside of its native environment. It is usually found in Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil.

“We were able to watch the adults feeding the chick during a field trip with a group of students,” explained Román.

Including this new find, there are now four species of parrot breeding in Malaga city. The most numerous is the Monk parakeet, with more than 4,000 examples. Next is the Rose-ringed parakeet but with a lot fewer examples (between 130 and 140). Both species are considered invasive and it is illegal to sell them commercially here. The third most common species seen in Malaga is the Senegal parrot (very attractive with a deep yellow stomach). It is harder to spot as it usually stays hidden in the vegetation. It too nests in the city-centre park but up until now only five specimens have been seen. Now the Scaly-headed parrot has arrived and its numbers are expected to increase given the abundance of food available.

There are also up to eleven different species of individual parrots loose in the capital and at least one hybrid between the Rose-ringed and an Alexandrine parakeet.

Malaga is ideal for exotic birds, the large number of rubber trees (ficus) and Erythrinas (whose flowers the birds feed on) offer an “endless supply of food”, said Román. Lentils and rice are given to them by locals and the parrots compete with the pigeons for food from the bins.

Although the invaders can be a nuisance and noisy, the disadvantages are compensated by the beauty of these birds and the attraction for tourists. Román admits that this is fine as long as the birds do not venture out of the city into agricultural areas.

Monk parakeet Over 4,000.

Rose-ringed parakeet 130-140.

Senegal parrot At least five.

Scaly-headed parrot At least four.

11 other species Not breeding at the moment.