London's Parakeets: Everything You Need To Know

M@
By M@
London's Parakeets: Everything You Need To Know

Are there really wild parakeets in London?

Yes, thousands of them. Long-term Londoners will be well aware, but newcomers are often taken by surprise by the flash of green and exotic squawk. You never forget your first parakeet moment.

What are they?

Parakeets come in lots of flavours, but London's are called ring-necked parakeets (sometimes rose-ringed parakeets). More specifically, it is the Indian subspecies of this bird (Psittacula krameri manillensis).

How do I identify them?

It's easy. They are the only large green birds in the kingdom. And they shriek like throttled muppets.

Where can I see them?

Almost anywhere in Greater London. The screeching invaders were once to be found only to the south of the city — places like Kew and Richmond Park. They've since spread all over the capital and out into the Home Counties. A bit like Franco Manca Pizza.

How can I get covered in parakeets?

There's a sweet spot, in Kensington Gardens, where you can make this happen:

I look a bit smug here. It's just the way my face goes when I try not to show terror. But see that telltale clenched fist? Parakeets can smell fear. (They can certainly smell apples.)

Here's what to do.

1. Leave the tube at Lancaster Gate (Central line).
2. Buy an apple from Hyde Park Superstore. It is not a superstore, but it does sell nice apples, and the fellow behind the counter was pleasant.
3. Cross the road into Kensington Gardens. Follow the path along the right-hand side of the lake until you pass the Peter Pan statue.
4. A few paces further on, you'll find a notice board about the wildlife. It does not mention the most obvious, green, squawksome wildlife.
5. At the sign, head right, towards the nearest set of bushes and trees.
6. Reveal your apple.
7. You will be covered in parakeets about 2.3 seconds later. And possibly a pigeon.

Holy crap!

Where did they come from? I mean, parakeets aren't exactly British, are they?

They are now. And don't let the Tories tell you otherwise.

Truth is, nobody really knows how this non-native bird first came to our shores. There are many theories:

1. The blighters escaped from the set of The African Queen, which was filmed at Isleworth Studios in 1951. This is the part of town where large flocks were first noticed. But that didn't happen till the mid-1990s. Where were they hiding for 40 years?

2. Jimi Hendrix released a breeding pair during a 1960s Carnaby Street stunt. Definitely not true. There's no record of the stunt. Plus, we once met Hendrix's former girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, who told us she'd never heard of the myth until recently.

That's one way to hide a bald patch.

3. The Great Storm of 1987 wrecked a number of aviaries in the well-to-do Surrey borders. This seems to make the most sense — it dovetails neatly with the first mass sightings a few years later. This is coincidental evidence only, though.

4. Because London is a superb city, so why wouldn't you come here?

How many are there?

The RSPB estimates 8,600 breeding pairs. It does not have a figure for non-breeding pairs, singleton parakeets, or those in polyamorous relationships.

Are they aggressive?

Several reports online describe the birds as 'not aggressive', and even shy. That has been our experience out in the suburbs, but not so in Kensington Gardens. We have footage of the parakeets attempting to peck the hell out of a curious pigeon.

Our intrepid reporter received several sharp bites to the neck, hand and ear. The photo of the author covered in parakeets was taken by a passing Kashmiri priest (this is true) who eventually fled in fear at the bolshy birds. Thank you, sir.

How are they affecting other wildlife?

It's still unclear what effect, if any, the parakeets are having on other species. Research by the ultimate tag-team of Imperial College, the Zoological Society of London and the Natural History Museum had some thoughts back in 2014. The study found that garden birds tend to eat less or keep away from feeding sites when the intimidating pecksters are nearby.

 

Please leave your own parakeet anecdotes in the comments below. We'd particularly like to know if there are any other sites where parakeets will swoop on a hand-held apple.

Last Updated 01 November 2017

Funkarooney

Parakeets seem to be the favoured food of the Peregrine Falcon - probably more tasty than a pigeon.

mensan98th

Well done on the article. Now I want to give that a try.

Steven Crosby

Great, another experience I'll have in London where my wife stands with dozens of birds climbing on her while I hide behind a tree some 40 feet way. Awesome but terrifying.

Vic Keegan

Parakeets destroyed much of this year's grape harvest at Forty Hall community vineyard at Enfield. Not good . . .

Frank Leery

According to one park policeman and birdwatcher, the ring-necked parakeet harms local birdlife in Kensington Gardens. Stop feeding invasive species!

Giles Cudmore

We're going today, if the future Mrs C doesn't end up with a parakeet in her hand you'd better start running M@!

twi5ted

I heard they escaped from the cargo livestock centre at Heathrow during transport.

Chris Fliss

Battersea Park has lots of them and they love monkey nuts, I'll be taking an apple next time :-) https://uploads.disquscdn.c...

Doodles & Scribbles

Hello! What a squawkingly fantastic article!

Have you heard of 'Parrots Don't Live in the City!'? It's a lovely children's storybook all about the London parakeets! It's been created by us - two London mums, Lucy and Jenna - and we've been flying off the shelves since our launch this summer. The perfect stocking filler for your little explorers, or to accompany their trip to Kensington Gardens for a full-blown parakeet experience!

You can find us at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pa... or www.doodlesandscribbles.co.uk

xx

https://uploads.disquscdn.c... https://uploads.disquscdn.c...

Allan Sneller

Joydens Wood (near Bexley SE London) has quite a large flock of feral parakeets. Lots of nearby stables to provide grain and small rodents i guess.

Roger Hatcher

In 1984 I lived in the Windsor area and there were a small flock of these Parakeets that frequented the area. I was always led to believe they had escaped from the then Windsor Safari Park. Over the years I have watched this flock grow and rapidly expand as my work covered the home counties. I even discovered a nest of them in a hollow tree at the back of my workshop in Staines.

Michael Sheppard

Spotted 20+ on the Grand Union Canal near Victoria Park today. They were feeding from bird feeders hung on the outside of someone's flat. They also seemed to be very territorial and were intimidating, dive-bombing and keeping groups of seagulls and pigeons away!

Alice Js

A flock has come to our area of SE london. Now the woodpeckers, robins and blue tits feed much less often at our feeders as the parakeets are often there.

anton van niekerk

Ok, lets have a little competition.....so far the closest sighting with photographic evidence has been near Lancaster Gate, just over 3 miles from what is considered to be the centre of London (i.e. Charing Cross)....now I have photographic evidence of them 1.4 miles from Charing Cross on Harrison Street, wc1, can anybody beat that ? Lets see who can get a snap of them even closer to what is considered the epicentre of London, Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square....just for fun, for a laugh, a-ha-ha-ha

Ronnie Mcmahon

I live in Camden square and there is a good 20 parakeets living or visiting everyday

Alan O'Kelly

Lots of them in the Bromley area. I heard some originally escaped from an aviary at Maudsley Hospital.

Bellerinna Barham

Something really should be done about them!!
They are gorgeous and intelligent birds but extremely destructive, crazily loud, aggressive and territorial females especially at breeding time!
Ive known females to even kill males around breeding time.
They can and will easily kill smaller birds
My indoor male punctured my daughters budgies neck two days ago when she accidentally put them in the same room this one survived however he killed another budgie a few years ago by biting a whole in its chest.
The damage they can do to fruit trees or any tree or really anything made of wood also is insane they love to chew almost as much as they love to eat!!

Matthew

I drive to work along the A40. Over the few miles before you hit the Westway at White City you can see hundreds of them flying south in the morning and north around dusk. There must be a huge roost for them in the area and I suspect it's somewhere on Wormwood Scrubs. Does anybody know?

Devon Michael

I have heard them in Berkeley Square. Adieu to the nightingale.

Holly van Kleeck

Other cities also have feral parrots, such as San Francisco and New York City

https://www.youtube.com/wat...

http://www.cnn.com/videos/t...

David

In Barcelona 20 years ago; many parakeets occupied the foliage of a date palm 10 metres above the pavement. Below, scores of pigeons round one large bread roll prevented one parakeet on the outside getting to feed; in a few moments it flew over the pigeon ring into the centre, took the roll and disappeared vertically into the palm leaves from where a number of parakeets watched, presumably with approval.

Bokka

Theres a flock in Wanstead E. London been around for a few years..i think generally they will become a pest if their numbers continue to grow.

Christine Jessie Harmer

The date of the great storm of 1987 is not right as I had parakeets in my garden as early as 1983 and I have photos to prove it.

Rushingabout

I understood the Kent farmers first encountered them when the damaged the fruit crops and they worked they way westward. They almost followed the same pattern as the Collared Dove invasion.

Nick

Villa Borghese park in Rome is also full of them

Nick

Villa Borghese Park in Rome is also full of them

Beatrice Miranda

This article was posted the day I flew into London. We were at a park and saw many of these birds, and many visitors covered in birds (though hopefully not bird poo)

They are much larger than parakeets I've seen before. Unfortunately I was not expecting the encounter, so I was not equipped with apples

Maybe next time. :)

Nigel perren

Nice one, I want to go to London and see them ! There was a breeding colony of ferel cockateils living in Portsmouth Hampshires train station, the council caught them and put them in the wonderful aviary in portsmouths Victoria Park, they kept landing on passengers heads!

Ian David Halstead

Me and our friends were on the edge of Green Park when we saw two nestling in a tree opppsite the HSBC. Not a sight I expected to see.