Spanish capital to reduce number of brightly coloured birds over public health risk fears
Madrid’s city council has grown sick of its parrots.
Or, more precisely, of the thousands of shrill, bright green monk parakeets that screech through the capital’s skies and build vast nests in its trees.
The council has announced plans to reduce the number of parakeets after a recent survey showed the population had grown from 9,000 birds three years ago to 12,000 today. In 2005, there were only 1,700 of them in Madrid.
Although the birds are native to Argentina, many were imported as pets before ownership was outlawed eight years ago.
The city council says the swelling population needs to be brought down as the parakeets are competing with other species for food and damaging the environment by stripping vegetation to build their huge stick nests.
It also says they pose a public health risk as they can pass illnesses such as psittacosis (parrot fever), avian flu and salmonella on to humans.
And then there is the size of their nests.
“As time goes on and they get bigger, these nests can become dangerous and weigh up to 200kg,” the council said in a statement.
“That represents a threat to the branches that support them and also to the people on whom they could fall.”
The city authorities are working with the Spanish Ornithological Society, SEO Birdlife, and will begin “humane slaughter” and egg sterilisation over the coming months.
“We’re going to put into effect a plan to control and reduce the number of monk parakeets in the city of Madrid as they have become a worry for people and we’ve had a lot of complaints,” said Borja Carabante, the council’s environmental representative.
The council said it had received 197 complaints about the birds between January and the end of August this year – almost as many as the 218 registered for the whole of last year.
Carabante did not reveal how many parakeets would be targeted, but Santiago Soria, the council’s head of biodiversity, said it would not eradicate the entire population. Without action, he added, the numbers would only continue to grow.
The cull, however, is not the city council’s most controversial environmental initiative. The council – a coalition between the rightwing People’s party and the centre-right Citizens party, backed by the far-right Vox party – has also sought to scrap the popular low-emissions zone introduced by the previous mayor, the leftwing former judge Manuela Carmena.
At the end of September, it announced plans to allow cars banned from the city centre back into the low-emissions zone and to reduce parking charges.
According to the environmental group Ecologists in Action, Camena’s Madrid Central scheme brought about record reductions in nitrogen dioxide levels in the city centre, with pollution from the gas 48% lower in April 2019 than during the same month last year. Nitrogen dioxide levels across the city were down by 16%.