Posted: Wednesday 20 June 2012
by Richard Jones

[...] when a flock of ring-necked parakeets screech their way over the chimney pots, I may as well be looking up at a squadron of flying saucers. They are so very alien.

Ring-necked parakeets on a feeder

At least, when the curious magpie lands on my fence and eyes-up an oats spillage in the guinea-pig run on the lawn, or the few remaining chicken bones left by the cats on the patio, I feel I know it. Whether from sing-song counting rhymes, or stereotypes of thievery from children’s books, myths of eye-picking told by gnarled old sheep-farmers, or cries of ‘murder’ from the lovers of garden songbirds, it is familiar, and part of my understanding of how the garden, and its wildlife, fits into the wider environment.
But when a flock of ring-necked parakeets screech their way over the chimney pots, I may as well be looking up at a squadron of flying saucers. They are so very alien. Despite being 40 years on British soil (or in British air), I find I have no store of knowledge (whether book-learned biology or crude doggerel) by which to judge them, or to understand how their increasing numbers might impact on the local ecology.
The fears (after worries of fruit-stripping from vineyard and orchard owners) are mainly centred on their out-competing native birds when it comes to limited numbers of tree holes in which to make their nests, with woodpeckers, titmice, tree-creepers and nuthatches being the obvious victims. Quite how the parakeets are affecting these native birds is still under scrutiny.
There is no doubt that parakeets are becoming very numerous hereabouts. When I first mentioned them in the blog, nearly five years ago, they had only just started to encroach onto East Dulwich. They are now a regular and increasingly numerous part of the local bird population, and I hear their unruly calls all too often.
I don’t think their ‘vermin’ status has had much of an impact in south-east London. Since late 2009 they have been on the list of birds (along with crows and curious magpies), which can be legally shot without any special license. I have yet to see a parakeet-laden gibbet in Dulwich Park or on Peckham Rye. Maybe now is the time to instigate one. Actually, I think that would be good for some interesting carrion beetles too.

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Talkback: Parakeets
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oldchippy 21/06/2012 at 12:34

Hi Richard,We have had Parakeet's in Nonsuch Park for about 12year's or more, there number's seem to get bigger each year as they spread there range in the local area,They are beautiful to look at but very noisy.


kaycurtis 22/06/2012 at 14:39

these birds are everywhere, loads in Reigate, Sry, shouldn't be here really,they would have a long way to fly home though.Noisy glad they don't come to my garden, I have loads of birds and love them, I would hate them to be chased away by this species.

SEED:Ball 25/06/2012 at 11:15

Yes! Such a strange site especially midwinter with snow on the ground (and branches) to see a flock of bright green parakeets flash by is an incredibly odd sight! The urban legends surrounding these birds is almost as exotic! With rumors that they are from those that escaped Pinewood Studios during the filming of The African Queen in the 50s, and others stating that they hail from a pair released by Jimi Hendrix in London in the 60s as a gesture of peace!

Atilla 27/06/2012 at 15:59

Also a problem in Europe. You see them in Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. I suppose they have novelty value for many.

weejenny 28/06/2012 at 08:31

Must be a site to see but I doubt we'll ever see them up here in the north of Scotland

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