By now, many readers are familiar with Kauai’s colorful invasive pest, the rose-ringed parakeet. It is becoming a critical pest on our island; residents should be aware of the current situation and what we can do to help.
Rose-ringed parakeets are native to Africa and India, and have been introduced to over 35 countries on five continents. Populations are found in Florida, southern California, and all of the Hawaiian islands. They are among the most significant invasive pests of agricultural food crops.
Though they are generalist feeders, surveys on Kauai show that they commonly feed on papaya, mango, lychee, lettuce, long bean, and tomato.
Damage to crops is only one complaint residents have regarding rose-ringed parakeets. They are also incredibly loud while roosting in trees, with a preference for various tall palms and Cook Island Pines.
They are commonly found on Kauai’s south side around Poipu, leading to numerous noise complaints from irritated residents and visitors. The large size of these flocks, plus the droppings they leave behind, are cause for concern due to the parakeets’ documented ability to vector human pathogens in other regions where it has become established.
Fragile natural ecosystems of Kauai are also at risk from rose-ringed parakeet feeding. Daily flight paths allow the parakeets to disperse invasive plant species they have fed on, including strawberry guava. They have also been seen feeding on koa and other native forest seeds.
It is very clear that the rose-ringed parakeet has become a highly invasive pest on Kauai that affects agricultural, social, and natural systems of the island. But what is being done?
County, state, and federal agencies have come together to form a working group to tackle this pest, whose populations are increasing exponentially and moving further across the island. A bill was submitted to the state legislature this year proposing more funding for population and control research, but the bill was not passed.
It will be re-submitted next year, with more evidence showing the urgency of the matter. Farmers, residents, and visitors are encouraged to send testimony to the UH-CTAHR Extension office, describing how rose-ringed parakeets are negatively affecting their property or experience here on the Garden Island. We also welcome any high-resolution pictures of the birds roosting or feeding on valuable crops.
Meanwhile, what can you do? Though the parakeets are colorful and fun to watch, please do not feed them or encourage roosting behavior on your property. If they attempt to feed on fruit trees in residential areas, you can scare them away with loud noises, high pressure water, or mylar flash tape to change their behavior.
Larger isolated agricultural properties can apply for control permits with the Kauai County branch of the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife. As mentioned, your input matters and the UH-CTAHR Extension office welcomes official complaints and photos that can be used for educational material.
For more information or questions, please contact the UH-CTAHR Extension office in Lihue.
Dr. Kathryn Fiedler is a Jr. Extension Agent for UH-CTAHR. Have a plant, garden or invasive species question? Contact the CTAHR Extension Office at 274-3471. Or stop by our office in the State Building at 3060 Eiwa St., Room 210, Lihue. Our plant clinic (for plant insect, disease & soil problems) is open every Monday, 8:30 to 11:30 am.