I have lived in South West London for just over five and a half years now and in that time it has been very interesting to see the development and change of behaviour of one of our more colourful residents – the ring-necked parakeet.
When I first moved here the parakeet’s while not unusual restricted themselves to a twice daily flyby over my roof terrace. Every morning I would hear their unmistakable screeching calls just after sunrise while I lay in bed as they flew from their overnight roost in the park to cavort in the big trees along the river. And then again in the evenings as the sun began to set a small flock would fly in their strange almost random darting flight; quick but not very graceful (well not until they come into land that is – when they glide the last couple of feet and then splay their wings and tails like emerald green air breaks as they alight on a branch) back to the park. And almost without fail and a minute or two after the main flock, a lone straggler would be overhead squawking trying desperately to catch up his mates! I don’t know if it was the same bird whom was always later than the others but it was a daily joke while having dinner or a drink on the terrace and it was so regular and “on the dot” that you could set your watch to it.
The origins of how these – now naturalised, exotic and rather lovely birds – came to settle in the South East is shrouded in mystery – with the two most common stories are either that they are the descendants of Jimi Hendrix pet parrots released as a peace gesture on Carnaby Street or escapees from a film shoot at nearby Shepperton Studios.
I imagine the real truth is a lot less showbiz but all I know is that for more than year I only saw the birds in the morning and then in the evening – and only every flying overhead never in the trees (although I did hear them in trees occasionally as I walked past). As time has passed they have quite obviously had a population explosion and they have become one of the more common species in the area and their behaviour has changed. I now see and hear them almost everywhere in the South West of London and I have even seen one as far afield as Brussels! They regularly sit on my fence and peer into my bedroom at all times of the morning and evening – although I’ve never managed to have my camera at the ready when this happens so I have restricted portrait photography when I am in Richmond Park.