Lothian lovebirds thrive as parrots set experts a-twitch

EAST African parrots are breeding in the wild in Scotland for the first time, after setting up home in a coastal town.

Peach-faced lovebirds, which have bright green plumage, have been sighted rearing young in Dunbar, East Lothian.

The exotic parrots are understood to be escaped pets which managed to survive the Scottish winter thanks to a plentiful supply of food from garden bird-tables. Experts are now monitoring the "phenomenon" after reports of at least five of the birds living in the area.

David Kelly, the Lothian recorder for the Scottish Ornithology Club, who is now writing a paper on the finding, said although the birds were only confirmed as parrots recently, they have been living in Dunbar since 2001.

"I am so amazed that parrots are breeding here in Scotland. It is a very interesting discovery because there are only four species of parrot that have managed to breed in the wild in the UK and that is in the south of England," he said.

"It was a Dutch birdwatcher who confirmed that the parrots had young while he was on holiday in Dunbar, but we have also had many other sightings, which is wonderful."

The lovebirds have a green body, a peach-hued face and throat and a bright blue rump. They are vegetarian, eating berries, seeds and tree buds, and can live for ten to 15 years in captivity. The species got its name because it lives in affectionate pairs.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said parrots breeding in Scotland was exciting news.

"This is very rare and unusual and something which is exciting for Scotland," he said. "I would encourage people to visit Dunbar so that they can see them.

"It is very unlikely that they will be able to establish a sustainable population that would compete with native species, so we are not worried at the moment that they would present a problem."

Romain Pizzi, a clinical scholar in exotic animal medicine at Edinburgh University, said: "It is not a good thing for alien species to be introduced into a different habitat because they could bring diseases."