Waking up to the familiar sound of dogs barking, doors slamming and traffic on the main road is pretty standard at home in London’s leafy suburb of Shirley, Croydon. Compared to the easily identifiable bird chirps and odd quacks, there is another sound, less familiar to those well rehearsed in the Croydon theme tune.
When attempting to identify the mysterious squawks, parrots aren’t usually the first suspects.
“Often found in flocks, numbering hundreds at a roost site, it can be very noisy.” – RSPB
There is an estimated 5,000 (plus) ring-necked parakeets living in London suburbs and yes, they are very noisy.
Vibrantly coloured green feathers, fierce looking red hooked beaks and much larger than the average bird gracing the area, the parakeets are hard to miss.
So why are they here? Word on the street is that one cheeky ring-necked parakeet escaped from being kept as a pet and made Croydon its home.
Not far from the truth, parakeets have been popular pets since the Victorian era and it can be assumed that they were deliberately released or escaped over the years.
As the UK’s only naturalised parrot, they are pretty impressive. Originally from Asia, the cold British winters don’t seem to put them off.
Now resident in south-east England, particularly Surrey, Kent and Sussex; the parakeets prefer the provision of food found in suburban parks, large gardens and orchards in the areas.
The species has been recorded in almost every county in England.
They compete with starlings, woodpeckers and owls for their habitat and although they are often exciting as garden visitors, there are concerns about how they affect native fauna and the impact they have on fruit-growers.
Their diet mainly consists of fruit, berries, nuts, seeds and grain but, because they live in urban areas, they also consume household scraps including meat.
Since 1969, the ring-necked parakeet population has steadily increased, but as their numbers grow, conservationists think they pose a threat to native species.
Ring-necked parakeets are protected in the wild under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and if the birds are killed without justification, people can face six months in prison or a £5,000 fine. It is also illegal to release or allow them to escape into the wild.
Native and non-native species can live harmoniously alongside each other, and the adoption of ring-necked parakeets into the British bird world is proof of this. Love them or loath them, the London Wildlife Trust said, the parakeets are now “as British as curry”.
Image courtesy of Rob via Flickr