Vertical segregation by breeding ring-necked parakeets Psittacula krameri in northern Italy.
Cavities represent a limiting resource for breeding birds, thus triggering potential competition, mostly in urban ecosystems. The ring-necked parakeet Psittacula krameri is one of the main alien invasive bird species of the world. Introduced populations are reported for over 35 countries, Italy included. This parakeet mainly depends on trunk cavities for reproduction but, occasionally, it may nest within building holes. A growing population of this species is present in the urban area of Pavia (northern Italy). Differently, from what has been observed in other colonies of the global introduced range, most of this urban population nests within the putlog holes of the Visconti castle and surrounding towers, together with four native species. In this work, we counted the breeding pairs of ring-necked parakeets nesting within putlog holes of castle and tower walls and estimated the breeding population size. Observations were carried out once a week, 30 min before sunset, for an hour, from the start of April to the end of August 2016 and 2017. We assessed whether a vertical segregation occurred between parakeets and native species (i.e. the rock pigeon, the jackdaw, the Italian sparrow and the common swift) through a dissimilarity index. Inter-specific interactions have never been observed, despite two pigeon ticks being detected on rescued parakeets. A strong vertical segregation was observed between ring-necked parakeets and pigeons, and between ring-necked parakeets and common swifts. Ring-necked parakeets and jackdaws were mostly observed in the highest putlog holes. No breeding parakeet pair was observed within plain trunk cavities in the surroundings of the castle walls, which were instead occupied by jackdaws and tawny owls. Most parakeet nests were located on the eastern wall, where they receive the first light at dawn.