Friday, 1 August 2008

Parakeets attack church spire

Hundreds of exotic birds have pecked their way through the spire of a south London church,causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.So these suburban arakeet 'pests' face drastic cull. The rose-ringed parakeets were initially welcomed by parishioners of St John's in Croydon - until they decided to hack away at the soft wood shingles, creating gaping holes. Now the church, built in 1836, faces a £5,000 repair bill.

Parish secretary Bernard Day said: "The birds turned up a couple of years ago. We have tall cypress trees and they seem to find them particularly alluring. "There were just a few to start with, but numbers grew rapidly and before we knew it there were at least 250. At first they were a joy to watch, they really brightened up the place. But a few months ago they started pecking at the spire. They love the shingles and have pulled out at least 100 of them. Maybe they're looking for insects. Who knows? Now we're at a complete loss. We're concerned they're going to start nesting."

The church is already under financial pressure after thieves removed £3,000 worth of lead from the chapel roof and adjoining parish room earlier this year. Mr Day, 95, said: "First the lead, now the birds. We're not really sure how to get rid of them.
Parishioners suggested a hawk to scare them off, but I don't think that's very practical. The structure of the spire doesn't allow for tiles to replace the shingles. In my opinion, the only solution would be to shoot the birds. Unfortunately, we're not allowed to."

John Tayleur, of the British Trust for Ornithologists, suggested using noise and a bird of prey to scare the parakeets. He said he was surprised they were chewing shingles but they often ate mortar for the minerals it contains and because the grit helps them digest food. Parakeets settled in Britain from India in the 1960's, but numbers have boomed in the last 20 years. There are now about 30,000 in Britain, mainly in London.

Source: Daily Telegraph (28/7)

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