Denby Fawcett: These Beautiful Birds Spreading On Oahu Are Loud, Fruit-Stealing, Pooping Menaces - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

At 6:15 on the dot every morning, about 60 rose-ringed parakeets swoop high above my house, screaming and squawking as they circle two or three times before swooping down toward the ocean, and then zooming high up in the sky again before disappearing over the rim of Diamond Head.

It is one of my pandemic activities, watching the noisy green parakeets while I do weight training by Zoom on our deck.

Driven by curiosity to find out more about the birds, I discovered there are plenty of reasons we should hate them. They are eating valuable commercial fruit and corn crops, destroying mangoes in residents’ backyards, pooping on cars and disturbing the peace with their noisy chatter. They spread seeds of invasive plants and could have an adverse effect on native wildlife.

There is no active effort to control their growing numbers on Oahu and there does not seem to be the will to initiate any sort of widespread management program here.

The birds are more like parrots, bigger than the normal-sized parakeets we had for pets as children. They are known as rose-ringed or ring-necked parakeet because of the black and rose-colored feathers around the necks of males. They are from South Asia and were first sighted on Oahu in the 1930s.

Aaron B. Shiels, a research biologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, estimated in an email that there are currently about 10,000 rose-ringed parakeets on Oahu and each year their population can be expected to expand by 21% as it has annually for more than a decade.

Shiels says, “The level of damage they are doing on Oahu can certainly be reduced through management actions”  — such actions could include killing and trapping them.

He says although the birds’ numbers can be reduced on Oahu, population extermination would be challenging.  He knows of only one island, Mahe in the Seychelles, where the population of 545 rose-ringed parakeets was successfully exterminated.

The parakeets are reported in Kapiolani Park, Manoa, Waimanalo, Waipio and Mililani.

“They are a significant threat to Oahu’s agriculture industry. We need to find new strategies to manage this pest before it becomes a widespread problem,” said Jari Sugano, Oahu county administrator of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Shiels and Nicholas Kalodimos, in an article in the journal Pacific Science, called the birds “strikingly beautiful” but “unwanted invaders.” In Hawaii, they are classified as “injurious wildlife.” They have no effective predators here.

Anecdotal reports of their damage to crops and property on Oahu are numerous.

Lynn Tsuruda, who owns Frankie’s Nursery in Waimanalo with her husband Frank Sekiya, says the rose-ringed parakeets invade in large gangs, swooping down to wipe out a rambutan tree in a day.

Tsuruda says two of her hunter friends offered to shoot the birds but they only managed to kill two in an entire day.

“When the birds saw the hunters, they would just fly higher and higher up,” she said. “They are very smart. They hovered high above us, squawking like the were laughing at us.”

The hunters said it was useless for them to return.

Rose-ringed parakeets working in large gangs can quickly eat most of the mangoes on a single tree.
Rose-ringed parakeets working in large gangs can quickly eat most of the mangoes on a single tree. Courtesy: Nicholas Kalodimos

Tsuruda says their only recourse now is to try to quickly pick the fruit before the birds get to it.

Shayne Stambler, a Diamond Head homeowner, says the parakeets ruined most of her rapoza mango tree’s crop this summer.

Stambler said, “I don’t mind sharing some of my fruit with the birds, but the parakeets swept in and started eating it when it was still green, taking a single bite out of one green mango and moving on to the next mango to take another bite, and then to another mango, slowly wrecking all the fruit on the tree.”

To try to deter them, she put out a plastic owl with a rotating head. When that failed, she dangled reflecting mylar strips off the mango tree’s branches, and finally, she tried to scare the birds with a large balloon with big eyes painted on it, but nothing worked.

Diamond Head resident Shayne Stambler put out a plastic owl and blew up a “scary” balloon but the parakeets were undeterred and kept eating her mangoes
Diamond Head resident Shayne Stambler put out a plastic owl and blew up a “scary” balloon but the parakeets were undeterred and kept eating her mangoes. Courtesy: Shayne Stambler

“That’s when I realized I had to pick all the remaining mangoes even before they were fully ripe,” she said.

Kristin McAndrews of Manoa says the parakeets are a pooping nuisance, defecating all over her car. She says, “They are intelligent. When you yell at them, they squawk back like they are talking to you. “

Some parakeets in Manoa are thought to be roosting in a large banyan tree in the Lin Yee Chung Chinese Cemetery.

According the Shiels, the rose-ringed parakeets’ excrement is a possible health and safety issue, carrying disease and attracting ants, cockroaches and mice.

Until now, the invasive parakeets were of government concern mainly on Kauai where, after a few were released from a bed-and-breakfast in Lawai in the early 1960s, the population exploded exponentially over the decades into an estimated 20,000.

That is, until last spring when Kauai County paid $25,000 to the non-profit Poipu Beach Foundation, which hired hunters from Kani Wildlife Control, LLC.

The birds were not only harming farm crops but also massing in West Kauai tourist areas where they defecated on resort areas and tourist rental cars.

In Lihue, at the Kukui Grove Center, a particularly aggressive parakeet swooped down to try to grab an ice cream cone from a child, according to Wade Lord, who then was the asset manager of the shopping center.

With permits from the state, the Kauai hunters used high-powered air rifles to kill nearly 10,000 of the pesky creatures as they roosted in trees in the Koloa-Poipu tourist resort area, according to Nalani Brun.

The bodies of the dead birds have been frozen to study their DNA and learn more about their habits.

Brun is the director of the Kauai County Office of Economic Development. She says the parakeets have been decimating Kauai’s developing tropical fruit and corn enterprises.

“The community here loves agriculture,” Brun said. “People want farmers to prosper. The pandemic gave us the perfect chance with tourists gone to come in and start culling the parakeet populations.”

She says now they are in the process of obtaining permits to cull parakeet populations in the coconut groves of Kapaa.

Tropical fruit farmer Jerry Ornellas said each year the parakeets destroy 10% to 25% of the lychee and longan crops on the 15 acres of his farm in Kapaa Homesteads.

“The parakeets are just the latest in a long line of invasive species that farmers are faced with in Hawaii,” said Ornellas, a past president of the Kauai County Farm Bureau. “The sad part is this has happened when tropical fruit was on its way to becoming one of the rising stars in agricultural production here.”

This Rose-ringed parakeet is in a nest at Washington Place. The birds nest in tree hollows.
This rose-ringed parakeet in a nest at Washington Place. The birds nest in tree hollows. Courtesy: Laurie Carlson

The Kauai parakeet control project was started after the Hawaii Legislature in 2016 appropriated $350,000 to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Wildlife Research Center to study and offer long-term, scientific methods to reduce the parakeet populations on Kauai.

Jane Anderson of Texas A & M University-Kingsville guided the study now under final review. The results are expected to be made public by the end of this year or early next year.

It is probably impossible now to eliminate the rose-ringed parakeets from Kauai but the goal is to have lasting impact by severely reducing their numbers to a manageable level, says Tiffani Keanini, manager of the Kauai Invasive Species Committee.

“They are very intelligent birds, able to adapt to controls, so there will need to be multiple methods that are changed from time to time to work,” she said.

Keanini, part of the group driving the research, says the goal is to use what they have learned from the study to help guide parakeet reduction projects on all the islands.

Hawaii island has only a small population of the birds, primarily in the Puna District.

But this July for the first time in more than a decade, rose-ringed parakeets were detected on Maui after resident Joe Ward reported a parakeet eating seeds at a bird feeder in the Napili area and was able to capture it. Four more parakeets are still at large in West Maui.

Biologist Fern Duvall with the Department of Land and Natural Resources on Maui estimates there are probably less than nine rose-ringed parakeets on Maui, which he says must be exterminated before they have a chance to breed.

The parakeets can live from 10 to 20 years and are prolific breeders.

Duvall says the main problem with rose-ringed parakeets is that people like them because they are beautiful.

“They are not horrible like little stinging ants or have vicious nasty faces like mongoose. But even so they are out of place, an invasive species that does not belong in Hawaii,” he said.

Adam Knox, operations manager of the Maui Invasive Species Committee, said, “We are at a lucky stage where we have a good chance or getting rid of them entirely.”

It’s a shame that nothing is being done on Oahu to try to control the invasive rose-ringed parakeets when there is still a chance.

Maui biologist Duvall, who has been working with birds for more than 25 years, calls the lack of attention on Oahu “a missed opportunity to remove the parakeets while their numbers are still relatively small.”

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About the Author

Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

Latest Comments (0)

So, the "problem" is that this invasive species is eating fruit from other invasive species? Mangoes, lychee, corn and longan are not native to Hawaii and it seems likely that these birds eat those same fruits in their common native ranges in South Asia and China. 

Siliriek · 9 months ago

why is there NO effort to create a win-win with wildlife vs only thinking of eradication?   why not make an effort?   why not be like the date farms in CA where they cover their date bunches to deter the wild birds, vs only killing them?  auwe!!  for no creative thinking but just taking the easy way out and kill kill kill so your mangoes don't get eaten.   humankind . . .geez.

Lmars · 9 months ago

Psittacula krameri are true parrots, and the reason that "parakeet" is often attached to their name is that they have long tails. In fact, this species you see in the trees is one of the best in the parrot world at perfectly imitating human speech.  The primates of the bird world, parrots are intelligent, social,  long-lived. They use tools, play with toys, and develop deep bonds. I agree that because of the resourcefulness of these parrots, something needs to be done to protect farmers and native bird populations. I suggest we check in with other city leaders where they are also widespread, such as in London and California. This is the most prolific parrot species on the planet because of its adaptability and resourcefulness.  We must use humane resources to limit population spread, such as the use of birth control as is being done with the doves. Leaving them wild is the most humane thing to do. They live in family groups and loose affiliations between families. It would be devastating to them to capture and separate them. Look for videos about our green neighbors on Youtube; they come in other colors other than the dominant green. They're usually called Indian Ringnecks.

lstewart3718 · 9 months ago

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