On the 6th March Ted mentioned that he found some parrots in the park. I felt that I had to add a little more on these remarkable birds.
I first saw one of these birds on a cold winter’s day in a Brussels park. A bright green parrot in Belgium? Seemed odd. I took a photo, which shows a green blob high up in a tree. After a bit of research I discovered the bird was only one of a number of ring-necked parakeets living wild in Brussels and several other European cities.
When I moved to London I would occasionally hear an exotic squawking (described by experts as “kee-ak kee-ak”) but I struggled to see any parakeets. It was whilst enjoying a Sunday lunch by the Thames that I clearly saw bright green birds with long tails and pointed wings flying across the water (the beer garden of The London Apprentice is a great place to see them, they roost on the island opposite the pub).
In tropical Africa and India where the parakeets are native they mainly eat nuts and fruit, but in the UK they have proved willing to supplement these with household scraps. They’ve been around in the UK since the 1850s though it’s only since the sixties they’ve become established, the only parrot that has done so in Britain. Since then they’ve spread widely, being sighted in all counties of England and parts of Scotland and Wales, but still the vaste majority of the 5,000 population are in the South East. The RSPB’s 2006 Big Garden Birdwatch reported sighting in over 2000 gardens and it’s thought that food from gardens is pretty important in helping these birds survive the winter (apparently the cold isn’t a problem). Great news is they don’t seem to be causing any problems for native wildlife, though as numbers grow this may change.
Now is a great time of year to see them, they are in full breeding plumage and the trees are still bare – spotting green parrots in green trees is a little tricky. The Thames in west London is a great place to see them, (the area around Kew gardens is full of them) especially earlier in the day or late afternoon as large noisy flocks cross the river on route to their roost. I’ve even seen them flying over Fruit Towers. However, I’m told that their biggest winter roost is Esher Rugby Club where nearly 3000 birds (2999 to be precise) were counted in October 2005.
Once you can pick-out their distinctive call you’ll realise ring-necked parakeets are in all sorts of places around London and beyond. I’d love to hear about your parakeet sightings further afield.
our resident ecologist.