The days are numbered for Malaga's parakeets

Two parakeets perched on a branch in Malaga city.
Two parakeets perched on a branch in Malaga city. / Ñito Salas
  • Shooting the parakeets at close range causes less stress than catching them in nets and putting them to sleep

Malaga city hall has decided that the only way in which to eradicate the invasive parakeet population in the city is to use air rifles to shoot them.

Alberto Esteban, head of the Unidad Verde of the Environmental and Sustainability department of Zaragoza town hall, is the expert who came up with what is considered to be the most effective eradication plan in the world.

The city of Zaragoza was once also overrun with parakeets which damaged the indigenous flora and drove away native species of birds. They solved the problem by embarking on a campaign to inform citizens of the problem so that they would understand the importance of controlling the parakeet population.

With the backing of 98% of the population, the cull began by shooting the adult birds in April, as they were starting to nest but before they laid eggs. It was carried out in the early hours of the morning, at close range and by just one trained marksman assisted by a helper from the Department of the Environment. In this way, and over two years, Zaragoza city hall was able to completely eradicate the parakeets.

A specialist from the city hall said that once the cull was over, "other bird species could be heard singing and people soon didn't miss the noise of the parakeets".

In Malaga city the number of parakeets is nearly double that of Zaragoza before the cull and it has been decided that marksmen from the local police force will be used to help with the campaign. At present there are around 4,500 monk parakeets in Malaga, 3,000 of them in Malaga city. In under three years this figure will have doubled if nothing is done.

Antonio Román Muñoz, Biology lecturer at the UMA explained, "I have spent my whole life studying birds, and parakeets present a serious risk to agriculture and the ecology," he considered the decision by Malaga town hall to be "a fast and selective way of eliminating the birds".

The alternative of capturing the parakeets alive in nets and taking them away to be euthanised is considered to be more stressful for the birds, apart from being less efficient and more expensive.