26/11/2011
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Call for gardens with parakeets

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Project Parakeet at Imperial College London is researching competition for food between the UK's non-native population of Ring-necked Parakeets and native garden birds. We are looking for people with bird feeders that are regularly visited by parakeets and who would be willing for us to put up a squirrel-proof bird feeder in their garden for a year-long observational experiment, beginning in November 2011.

We will be using a squirrel-proof feeder (for sunflower seed) on a stand. After six months we will swap it round to a parakeet-proof feeder to see what difference it makes to the use of the feeders by the other birds once the parakeets are unable to access the food. For half the gardens the parakeet-proof feeders will be used for the first six months and then switched to the normal feeders, and the other way round for the other half. This is in order to take the effect of the time of year in to account. The data we collect will be analysed to see how much the parakeets are directly competing for food with the other birds on garden feeders and how this changes the use of the feeders by garden birds.

Ring-necked Parakeet
Ring-necked Parakeet, Ruislip, Greater London (Photo: Tony Hovell)

Garden owners would be required to carry out 20 minutes' weekly observation of birds feeding from sunflower-seed feeders installed by the project. The main requirement of the experiment is that the garden has regular visits of parakeets to bird feeders.

The feeding experiment will allow us to investigate how much the parakeets are competing for food — how much they're actually consuming in comparison to the native birds — and how the presence of the parakeets on the feeders affects the diversity and numbers of species using the garden feeders. It will complement a previous year-long garden experiment that looked at the indirect effect of parakeet presence on feeding behaviour.

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Ring-necked Parakeet
Ring-necked Parakeet, Glasgow, Clyde (Photo: Ben Cooper)

We will install a squirrel-proof feeder in your garden — we would organise a time and day to do this that is convenient for you (and then again 6 months later to install another feeder). Keeping the feeders topped up with black sunflower seeds for a year is essential; we would be able to refund expenses up to £70 for the year for the bird food if you can provide receipts.

Requirements:

  • Parakeets in your garden!
  • Regularly feeding your garden birds
  • Keeping a record of the amount of food consumed by the birds per week
  • Not using the other bird feeders in your garden for the whole year. You could carry on feeding niger seed for the finches if the feeder was placed well away from the experimental feeders. You could also continue to feed ground-feeding birds.
  • Spending 20 minutes each week observing the numbers and species of bird on the feeders and emailing or posting this information to us on a regular basis — a few weeks of missed observations here and there through the year would not be a problem.

For information and questions contact Hannah Peck at parakeet@imperial.ac.uk or find out more about the project at www.projectparakeet.co.uk.

Written by: Hannah Peck