Swarms of parakeets — yes, parakeets — are now a giant nuisance on Kauai

Growing number of parakeets becomes growing problem on Kauai

KAPAA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Parakeets aren't typically considered a nuisance bird. But on Kauai, that's exactly what they've become.

Swarms of rose-ringed parakeets are destroying farmers' crops on Kauai. And residents and visitors complain flocks of the green-coated, long-tailed birds are roosting in palm trees over parking areas and leaving their droppings on cars.

Their loud and noisy calls can be heard echoing through residential areas.

"It's discouraging to realize we're going to lose a good percentage of our crop to these birds," said Kauai farmer Jerry Ornellas, who mainly grows tropical fruit like lychee and longan on his 15-acre Kapaa farm.

He said in 2016, he suffered a 30 percent crop loss due to parakeet predation.

"There's no way of knowing what we're going to lose this year, because every year it seems to get worse and at some point it's going to get to where we cant even farm," Ornellas said.

Brought to the islands from India, records show the feral birds escaped as caged pets in the 1960s.

By the 1990s, their population had grown to about 200.

Today, invasive species experts believe more than 5,000 call the Garden Isle home.

"That's typical of invasive species," said Bill Lucey, project manager for Kauai Invasive Species Committee. "Until it's right in our face and it's a problem, we tend to ignore it."

Farmers say they've put up nets, propane cannons and even resorted to lasers to try and protect farmland -- all to no avail.

"We're in the invasion curve right now so we are going to have to do some kind of control," said Lucey. "The alternative is that we could be sustaining a lot of economic loss and quality of life and displacement of other species."

Proposed legislation this year would spur the state to allocate funds to the National Wildlife Research Center so that a control plan can be developed and implemented. State officials are scheduled to visit Kauai later this month.

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