The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Friday, May 30, 2003

Exotic Birds in the Hill Country
Bill Lindemann, Fredericksburg Standard/Radio Post, Kerrville Daily Times, May 2003, © 2003

Occasionally I get reports from readers of sightings of unusual birds here in the Hill Country. Generally they are parrots or parakeets that have likely escaped from their keepers, but sometimes other species are seen. Most of these birds have been introduced into the pet trade from foreign countries, some legally and some illegally. Most of the escapees do not survive long in the wild because they can't find adequate food, or they become prey to predators.

I have read that approximately a million birds are brought into our country every year and of these, one third are illegal. Many of the smuggled birds do not survive their transport. Because many of these birds command large dollar amounts, profit fuels the illegal trade. As these birds are captured for illegal trade, the species' survival in their native areas is greatly stressed.

Recently I learned of a Monk Parakeet being seen at a feeder in Kerrville. He was likely an escapee. Monk Parakeets have survived in some areas of the country and have formed fairly large colonies in proximity to cities. For the most part these parakeets have not been a problem, but in their native Argentina, they are considered an agricultural pest. To avoid such a problem in this country, many of these colonies have been eradicated, or their numbers reduced to the point that they are harmless to nearby agricultural business.

I do not think that there are enough Monk Parakeets in the Hill Country for residents to be worried about their becoming pests. There are enough backyard feeders to sustain them for a while, but their chances of survival are low. If one appears at your feeder, just enjoy it while it is visiting. Budgerigars, natives of Australia, and other common pet birds may also escape from time to time, but as with the Monk Parakeets they will not likely present any problem to our community.

I have had reports of strange looking duck-like geese, most often the Egyptian Goose, being seen in the area. I know that a pair has been at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park in Fredericksburg for years and they have produced goslings. Offspring of these long-legged, masked geese have likely ventured away from Fredericksburg and may be found on farm and ranch ponds.
As their numbers are very small, these birds not likely to have any impact on our native duck and geese populations.

I believe there is little chance exotic birds will ever become the problem that exotic animals, like blackbuck and axis deer, will become on our resident white-tailed deer population and our ecology. These animals have been introduced slowly and have adapted to the climate and plants in our region; therefore, when they escape, they are likely to reproduce in large numbers and negatively impact our region. Birds, like European Starlings and House Sparrows, which were also introduced in our country, have not only survived, but have become pests. I think they are the exception and not the rule.

If you find someone's "Polly" in your back yard, just enjoy it while it is there. It will not become a threat to our environment. Once these parrot family members taste freedom, they become very difficult to trap, or retrieve. Most birders do not add them to their life lists as they are out of their natural element.


At 4:12 PM, Anonymous christyk said...

We sighted three Egyptian geese today on our property and took some really great photos. Their unusual behavior attracted our attention as they called to one another repeatedly and for an extended time and did not seem overly concerned by our presence. Unusual and beautiful! We had to look them up on-line as they did not appear in our Sibley's guide.

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