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.