Arcadian Times




The parakeets

Quite where they came from nobody knows. Some say they escaped from Shepperton Studios during the filming of the African Queen in 1952. (The African Queen was filmed at Isleworth studios, nonetheless Shepperton gets the call in the legend). Others suggest they escaped from Heathrow Airport while in transit and others go as far as to say they were released by Jimi Hendix when he lived in West London. You may also hear they escaped from the aviaries of King Manuel II of Portugal the exiled king who lived in the area. Whatever their origin, these colourful and exotic birds have adapted well to their surroundings and are now a familiar sight in Richmond Park, Bushy Park, along the Thames or in suburban gardens.

In 1998 there were an estimated 1,500 ring necked parakeets in the UK, today the figures are nearing an estimated 50,000. The ring necked parakeet originates from the Himalayan foothills and so a cold winter is no obstacle to them. They eat berries, seeds and nuts which are in abundance in the area and due to their large size are able to compete for food and nesting places. The offerings of the suburban bird table also give them a plentiful supply. They live for up to 34 years and lay three to four eggs per tree. Their relationship with man is long, as they are believed to have been kept in captivity in India for over 3,000 years.

They are intelligent characters and can be seen playfully performing aerobatic displays or happily sitting in a tree. Their distinctive sound and bright green colours bring a sense of the exotic to the local landscape. The parakeet is among the 20 most sighted birds in London and has been seen in all the London boroughs. The Department of the Environment has been monitoring the increasing numbers of these birds. There is concern that the parakeets may be affecting the Starling and may also be a danger to the Nuthatch. At this stage there is no conclusive evidence that this is the case nor that that native bird populations are in decline due to the increase in parakeet numbers. Farmers have also been concerned that the parakeets are eating their crops.

From January 1st 2010, Natural England has added the parakeets to the general licence. A landowner is able to kill the birds without special permission if he is able to prove reason that the parakeets threaten conservation, agriculture or health and safety concerns. If reason cannot be found then should a parakeet be killed then the perpetrator is liable to a £5000 pound fine or six months in prison.

Certainly the novelty value of these rather wonderful birds is high, but certainly there are concerns in some areas that they might be coming too prevalent. Their expansion in number over the last 15 years has been spectacular and with no natural predators and an environment to their liking, this expansion will likely continue. Whatever their future, these colourful birds have brought a sense of mystery and a touch of the exotic to the local landscape.

Arcadian Times - March 17th, 2010