On the way through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace, I saw a group of small lime-green parrots. Turns out that London has wild parakeets--thousands of them. In fact, the birds are common in the City of London and have been spotted in the other 32 boroughs. The UK may have about 50,000 wild parakeets, with sightings as far north as Scotland.
The ring-necked parakeet, also called the rose-ringed parakeet, thrives in urban areas. Their natural habitat covers Africa, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. How do they survive London’s winter? These parakeets, I discovered, are comfortable in the cold. Probably not surprising, since they can live up to 4,000 feet in the Himalayas.
No one knows for sure how the parakeets wound up in London. One theory is that they escaped from the movie set of The African Queen in 1951. Another is that the Great Storm of 1987 wrecked aviaries surrounding London, and the birds escaped. One interesting rumor posits that Jimi Hendrix released a breeding pair on Carnaby Street in the 1960s. His girlfriend at the time, however, rebuts that story. The most likely theory is that today’s parakeets are the offspring of escaped or released pets. Parakeets have been kept as pet birds in England for centuries, and reports of escaped birds breeding date back to 1855.
As with invasive species in Australia, public opinion is divided on the parakeets. Some worry about their effect on native bird species and habitat, while others love the bird’s colorful personality and raucous charms. For me, they were a reminder of home.