If you have ever visited any of London’s parks or gardens, then the chances are you may have heard a very un-British bird call. If you have been lucky you may even have caught a fleeting glimpse of some bright green long feathered tails flying overhead! Parrots…in England?
Ring Necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
Indeed so, but to be more accurate these are the well established flocks of Ring Necked or Rose Ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) which are now happily living in the country’s Capital city.
So how did this bird usually found in lowland India and West Africa get here? There have been odd sightings of this bird in England since the 19th Century which were thought to be escapes from captive collections. However since the late 1960’s the birds began to breed and thrive in London, their numbers remaining low until the mid 1990’s when their population began to increase rapidly.
In 1983 the population was estimated at 500, by 1996 it had reached 1,500 and by 2002, 5,800. Today the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) estimates that there are 8,600 breeding pairs in the South East of England alone.
Whilst they probably originally escaped from captive collections they seem quite at home in the Sweet Chestnut trees in Kensington Gardens
Other non native birds which are now firmly established in Britain include Canada Geese, Mandarin Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, Little Owls and Red Legged Partridges
Last year when walking through Kensington Gardens I was amazed to see how tame these gorgeous birds were so, armed with an apple, I soon had some feathered diners, literally eating out of my hand!
In the summer it becomes a popular attraction with hoards of tourists spellbound by the sight of parrots in England!
The male sports the distinctive black neck ring with rose pink collar
There are many theories and urban myths abound about how they arrived. Here are some of my favourites! They escaped from the set of the film “The African Queen” filmed at Shepperton Studios in the 1950’s, a pair were set free by Jimi Hendrix in the 1960’s in a Carnaby Street stunt, and the Great Storm of 1987 wrecked aviaries in well to do Surrey gardens!
However they got their freedom they are now firmly here to stay and are quite common sights across not only the London area but Kent and other parts of the south east. They do move about too and occasional sightings have been made in the north of England, in fact one arrived for a couple of days in my mother’s midlands garden!
Happily feeding in a midlands garden
Last week with not many tourists about I seemed to become a very popular restaurant and at one time had several Parakeets clamouring for one apple!
Their call is quite raucous often likened to an amplified squeaky wheelbarrow wheel, and believe me when one is sitting on your shoulder and it squawks it is quite ear splitting!
Some people say the arrival of these parakeets has driven away other resident birds. Like all wild birds in the UK they are protected by law. I can only speak from what I have seen but they appear to be very sociable with other birds such as pigeons, jackdaws, crows and magpies. They only seem to bicker and squabble with each other to get a turn at the apple!
Fruit, nuts and seed seem to be their preferred dietary choices
Parrots are Marmite birds…you either love them or loathe them and I for one love them!