By Mike Smith.
Red breasted parakeets are not native to Singapore but successfully breed in the wild after being released as pets many years ago. They are found at Changi Village, Serangoon Gardens, Pasir Ris Park, the West Coast and undoubtably many other places.
I decided to observe the birds which live in a colony in Serangoon Gardens between late December 2020 and April 2021
The Alexandri subspecies live in Serangoon Gardens.
My conclusion is that RBP’s are successful in Singapore because:
- They live in permanent colonies.
- They have adapted to rural and urban locations.
- They select their trees and environment wisely.
- They defend their nest holes.
- They use the same nest holes on multiple occasions.
- At least two birds monitor the nests and feed chicks.
- The male often feeds the female in the nest so there is less incentive to leave the nest unattended.
- Breeding is prolific and most babies fledge so a colony can grow by 50% in a breeding season.
If it is determined that the RBP population is growing too fast, to the detriment of other parakeets in Singapore, its population could be controlled by aggressively trimming tree branches in the colony or closing holes.
RBP’s in Singapore live in “permanent communities” and take over a whole tree or group of trees. The colony in Serangoon Gardens has been around for several years for example and continues to do well.
RBP’s have adapted to both rural & urban settings eg PRP, Changi Village and Serangoon Gardens.
The Angsana is a regular choice of tree for a RBP colony to live in. This makes sense because Angsana trees are tall, healthy, hard wood trees that are common in Singapore. They are often planted alongside roads and thus need branches that grow over the roads cutting off, presenting opportunities for woodpeckers, barbets etc to drill out nests, which when abandoned can be taken over by RBP.
The holes/nests at Serangoon Gardens are at a safe height, offer good views against potential adversaries and are in a location with few predators.
I would estimate there were initially 20 – 25 RBP at Serangoon Gardens, primarily living in one tree.
RBP’s are clever and efficient because they keep using the same holes for breeding rather than looking for a hole and abandoning it after fledging.
Once established a nest is seldom left unguarded for more than 20 or 30 minutes. Once babies have hatched there are often two or more birds monitoring the nest.
Male adults feed the female in the nest when required. No large protein eg worms or caterpillars was fed to the babies so I suspect protein was from seeds or possibly small bugs on the tree (adults were seen gnawing at branches). Males & females are involved in looking after the nest and feeding chicks but 1 bird, female, dominates sitting in the nest or at the entrance.
Between January and April 2021, I witnessed 10 successful fledges. In simple terms the population increased by almost 50% in less than 4 months! If this colony is typical then no wonder the population is growing so quickly.
In all instances, within twenty – four hours of the chicks fledging the nest was “choped” again by another pair of RBP, thus making sure no other type of bird could take over the hole or tree.
I am not sure what the ethics of preventing RBP from continuing to grow are but perhaps one way to stem the growth is to target angsana trees with significant populations and fill in some of the holes or severely trim the trees and remove some holes which would probably be more politically correct.
RBP are thriving in Singapore and will continue to do so unless efforts are taken to control their numbers.
References: ikcnhm.nus.edu.sg, wiki.nus.edu.sg, desgroup.org