Parakeets of Paradise:
A brief and fantastical history of how the birds adopted London as their home
Text Mirabella Shahidullah
Indigenous to the Australian outback, Sub-Saharan Africa and the India’s woodlands, parakeets’ brightly coloured feathers can be a shocking site for newcomers to London. Yet, the city is home to thousands of its own parakeets, particularly the rose-ringed parakeets, known by their lime green feathers and cherry red beaks, they’re easy to spot, and if you can’t you’re sure to recognise their throttled shriek.
How exactly did the rose-ringed parakeets choose London as their adopted home? The origins of how they first came to the capital aren’t certain, but there are many different theories, perhaps each more bizarre than the next.
One factor that is said to have increased Britain’s wild parakeet population was the historic and violent cyclone of 1987. The Great Storm collided with British land over two days in October of that year and might have damaged aviaries, allowing the parakeets to escape and start nesting in the wild.
Another theory and perhaps a more Hollywood appropriate one, concerns a film set in the early 1950s. After shooting The African Queen, a film starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart , handlers and the production crew let out the birds after wrapping shooting in Ealing. Yet, some say it wasn’t until the 1960s that the parakeets took flight, when rock and roll legend, Jimmy Hendrix let out his own parakeets from his window of his Carnaby flat. Although, close friends of Hendrix at the time said this never happened, setting pet parakeets into the wild might be the most likely reason for why the bird flies here.
However, all of these theories were put to an end when in 2019, Researchers at Goldsmiths and Queen Mary University found out that the parakeet population did not grow from a single incident, but the wild parakeets are most likely the outcome of pet owners, either accidentally or intentionally, letting out the ring-tailed bird throughout the years.
Though we seem to have finally got an answer why the birds have called London home, the tales of how Parakeets got to the UK probably won’t be going away anytime soon, but, perhaps the mythical fantasies of their origins suit the flamboyant species that stand out against London’s grey skies. Whichever origin story you want to believe, London’s parakeets are here to stay. So, the next time you’re trying to spot a sight of their lime green feathers, remember the bird is a fan of central London and can often be spotted in Regents or Hyde Park.
Photograph: Sharath G
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