Posted by: Ross Gardner | December 30, 2018

Dividers of Opinion

The sight of bright green parakeets squawking their way around the Southeast of England, even after decades of their successful establishment here, is a decidedly incongruous one.  Incongruous, but not unwelcome… for some at any rate.

The Ring-necked Parakeet is an Asian native, established in the UK, mainly around London and the Home Counties, by way of successive escapes and introductions since the 1960s.  Their opportunism has been quite impressive really, perhaps all the more so given a chiefly sub-tropical natural distribution, although their presence among the foothills of the Himalayas does suggest something of a hardy streak.  They have risen from a handful in 1968, to three of four thousand in the 1990s, to a current estimated population in excess of 30,000.  The RSPB suggests a breeding population of 8,600 pairs.

Ring-necked Parakeet 5 (scaled)

Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) at Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, Essex).

They are great dividers of opinion.  Some bemoan the mess and noise of their winter roosts.  They have an appetite for fruit that has, on occasion, brought them into conflict with growers.  Some naturalists decry their competition with native birds for nest-holes in trees.  On the flip side there is many a Londoner that welcomes the colour they add to the urban wildlife scene; we can be quick to complain about anything that does not fit exactly into our own, uncompromising norm.  As for the competition for nest-sites, while genuine enough, actual adverse effects on the populations of the likes of Jackdaw and woodpeckers are yet (to the best of my knowledge) to be observed – time, in this regard, may tell.

I have seen them on many occasions, not least at their staggering winter roost of several thousand birds at Wormword Scrubs park, but the sound of their distinctive shrieking closer to where I live at Thurrock Thameside Nature Park pricked up my ears and I was pleased to see three of them swoop down to feed on some nut-feeders presumably put out for less exotic visitors.  It did a great deal to brighten a dull December day.

Ring-necked Parakeet 4 (scaled)


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