Parakeets on Hampstead Heath
Image © J.M.Garg
An Indian native has made its home in the chillier climes of North London. Hampstead Heath is now home to a flock of Rose-ringed Parakeets (also known as Ring Necked Parakeets). Although they hail from India, they tend to live at high altitudes, meaning that they’re able to adapt well to Britain’s cold winters.
The parakeets were popular pets in Victorian times, but many people believe that the current colonies around London were formed when a number of birds were released from the tropical film set of The African Queen at Shepperton Studios in Surrey. This may be an apocryphal tale, given that I can’t find any evidence that any of The African Queen was filmed at Shepperton (the English scenes were shot at Worton Hall Studios in south-west London). Nonetheless in the 1960’s and 70’s London saw a population explosion of these noisy visitors. The RSPB expect there to be 50,000 of them by 2010 and despite the fact that the parakeets are an introduced species, they are now protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
There are some concerns that as a non-native species their presence and competition for food resources may be detrimental to native British species. Apparently, as yet there’s no evidence that this is the case, but the RSPB are keeping an eye on the situation.
Wherever the parakeets came originally from they are a fantastic sight on Hampstead Heath - even in the snow you’ll hear their noisy calls and catch glimpses of their bright green plumage as they flit between the trees. To find them, just listen - the screeching will lead you straight to them!
To see the place these birds now call home, click here to view Hampstead Heath in the snow or click here to view the Highgate Ponds virtual tour.