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Strange Days: Myth Busters

 

The Parakeets of London

Are they the great-great-grandchicks of Jimi Hendrix's pet birds?

Parakeets of London

FT258


The myth


The colonies of wild parrots widespread today in London and south-east England are descended from birds which Jimi Hendrix released in the 1960s to add some psyche­delic colour to the city. Either that, or the original breeding pair were Jimi’s pets, accid­entally released after the guitarist’s death. Or, if not, then they were escapees from Shepper­ton film studios during the filming of The African Queen (1950); or possibly, in the 1970s, during the making of another (unnamed) picture at Shepperton. One way or another, anyway, the first London parrots had showbiz origins.



The “truth”


Feral parrots have been recorded in London since 1855. A study by Oxford University biologists of the rose-ringed, or ring-necked, parakeet (Psitacula krameri), suggests that London’s parrot population may reach 100,000 by 2010, having grown from fewer than 500 in 1983. They are long-lived birds with no natural predators in Britain, and it’s feared they will become serious pests to agriculture and biodiversity. They are now found as far west as Wales and as far north as Glasgow. There are already more parakeets in London than there are nightingales. Their recent population explosion is perhaps explained by a warmer climate, and by the spread of garden bird-feeders. The likeliest explanation for their origins, say experts, is disappointingly mundane: they probably escaped, and were released, from aviaries, pet shops and private homes. Quick – close that window!



Sources

'Feral Parrot Population Soars in UK', National Geographic, 8 July 2004
'Invading parakeets warm to wilds of suburbia' Times, 10 Sep 2005



Disclaimer

There seems to be no evidence for any celebrity involvement in the parrotisation of London – but if you know better, then please squawk the truth from the rooftops of 'comments', below.

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