July 07, 2013

THE PLEASANT PANDEMONIUM



THE ROSE RINGED PARAKEET


Kitty Party: Rose Ringed Parakeets
It was a lazy Sunday evening - the first at the Games Village and I was killing time with nothing interesting to do. Well that was till I heard loud squawking sounds emanating from a tower in the vicinity of our building. As I went to the balcony to have a closer look, I was thrilled by the sight in front of my eyes. A pandemonium (that is what they call a flock of these avians) of Rose Ringed Parakeets was perched on the tower, which is at a distance of 25 meters from where I was standing. The group consisting of about 12-15 members of both sexes, was very noisy... not surprising if you are familiar with this species. This is precisely the reason that their flocks are also referred to as 'pandemonium' which means a wild uproar or a noise. After a quick chat stretching for several minutes, they flew off, one by one to feast on the fruit bearing trees in the NGV Builder's Club where they were joined by other flocks from the area. The feeding frenzy continued for over an hour, giving me an opportunity to click them from the terrace - my vantage point. Just as the sun began to go down, they left towards the east, either individually or in groups of two or three. In fact, this spectacle of sorts is unfolded each evening here in the NGV complex. Sadly for me, since I come home late in the evening, I have to wait for the weekend to witness it (Awwwww!). 


Also known as the Rose Necked Parakeet, these birds are easy to identify all thanks to their distinct appearance - light green body, a relatively long bluish-green tail and a cherry-red beak in characteristic shape. Though they are gifted with distinct colours, they are difficult to spot, especially when foraging on trees. They display sexual dimorphism with males having a red ring around the neck. These Psittaciformes are scientifically known as Psittaci krameri after the 18th century Austro-German naturalist Wilhelm Heinrich Kramer. Four different sub-species have been identified - two being native to the Indian Sub-continent and the rest belonging to the horizontal stretch of land in Africa, ranging from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east. Parakeets are social animals and congregate in mornings and evenings on fruit trees. These noisy creatures are also fussy eaters; they drop off fruits after consuming only a small portion of it. This helps in pollination of seeds and also provides food for other terrestrial animals. Though the peak breeding season is between February and March, in India, they also mate during the winters. The litter consists of two to six sibling who are born after an incubation period lasting for little over 20 days. Their average size is close to 40 cm and they weigh upto 150 grams. They are said to live for 15 years in the wild. 


The Rose Ringed Parakeets are amongst the most successful birds in the world. Feral populations, which are descendants of introduced birds or escaped pets, have colonized several areas across the globe. From the US (Florida, California & Hawaii) to pockets in South America and Africa (Tunisia & South Africa), from the Middle East (Lebanon, Israel, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar & Oman) to Japan and Australia, they have adapted to these new regions, competing with local species, besides adjusting to unfamiliar terrain and peculiar climatic conditions. In nature, as the great Charles Darwin once put it, it is the Survival of the Fittest and the manner in which this species has seen off the human pressure on its habitat is indeed remarkable. However, one should not forget that these invasive creatures may end up upsetting the ecological balance in its new territories. In Bengaluru, I have seen them in many places - Bannerghatta Road, Indira Nagar, White Field and now even in Koramanagala. Though not as widespread as the crows, pigeons, mynahs or kites, they are certainly doing well here inspite of all the urbanization and deforestation. As such, the IUCN has evaluated them as as a species of Least Concern.


Parakeets are intelligent birds and have the ability to mimic human voice when trained. They are quick learners and are known to perform tricks like untying knots or identifying objects, all of which keeps their mind occupied. As such, there is little surprise that for centuries, they have been kept as pets by kings and commoners alike. In modern times, newer techniques have been used to produce mutant individuals in different colours including blue, grey, yellow, white and so on which are a big hit with pet owners, especially in the west. Sadly though, in most cases, they are confined to small steel cages for their entire life. In absence of companionship or in situations wherein they are not challenged mentally, they become 'rouge' and revert back to their wild behaviour. Though the wild population of the Red necked parakeet is still pretty large, the pet trade is today a serious concern. Though it is not a threat to their numbers, I believe it is morally wrong to confine any bird or animal to a cage. By doing this, we are snatching away the right of another creature to live its life on its own terms. I hope that this inhuman practice of keeping such winged beauties for personal entertainment is stopped at the earliest.



SOURCES


(1) Wikipedia: Rose-ringed Parakeet (Link)

For more on Birding at National Games Village, Koramanagala:
(1) The First Birding Experience in NGV  (Link
(2) Whrisky, Frisky, Hippity Hop (Link)