Last month, there was a posting in the online Gran Alacant forum (search for Gasbags on Google – it’s a great place for local information!) from the redoubtable John Hannon, saying that he had seen a green parrot in Torrevieja. He asked what it was and he had attached a photograph of it which clearly showed it to be a Monk Parakeet.

Now you may think that the last thing you expect to see in our corner of Spain is a wild parrot, but there are quite a few of them about. They are not native to the area, or indeed the whole of Europe, but they are very popular cage birds, and a mixture of careless owners and deliberate releases over the past forty years or so has led to the establishment of a thriving wild population of these birds in many areas. Indeed, Barcelona has such a large population of Monk Parakeets that they are said to outnumber the ubiquitous pigeon in the city parks.

Within our region, they seem to be centred in Torrevieja (where my picture was taken), most commonly around the urbanisations bordering the northern Salt Lake, I have also seen one or two in the Parque Alfonso XIII in Guardamar, but so far I have had no sightings in the Gran Alacant area itself. They tend to form very sedentary populations, moving only short distances from their birth nests, but it can only be a matter of time before they spread here.

So where do these birds actually come from? They are native to South American, mainly in the Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil areas, where they are sometimes considered to be an agricultural pest – here in Spain they can decimate local tomato crops, but this is not such a great problem as they tend to congregate in urban areas. The Monk Parakeet is the only parrot which builds a stick nest as opposed to nesting in a hole in a tree or wall, and because they are social breeders, this can cause problems with damage to palm trees from the heavy weight of the communal nest.

The Monk parakeet is also sometimes known as the Quaker Parrot in cage bird circles, and as Cotorra Argentina in Spanish

There are also several other parrot species which have set up feral populations in Spain, including the Rose-ringed or Ring-necked Parakeet which will be familiar to UK visitors from the London area, and can sometimes be seen in Alicante city; the Senegal Parrot has occurred in Murcia, and here in Gran Alacant I have seen free-flying Peach-faced Lovebirds, but the latter are most likely to have been local escapees which have not managed to adapt to the wild. The Monk Parakeet is a much hardier bird, hence its success in colonising our area of Spain.

You can see more photographs of birds from our area by visiting www.marketheridge.smugmug.com