The Ring-necked Parakeet (or Rose-ringed Parakeet) is the only parrot naturalised in the British Isles, resident throughout the year. It is a large, long-tailed bird which is characteristically emerald green with a rose-red beak and a pink and black ring around its face and neck. In flight, it has pointed wings and a very steady, direct flight. They are raucous and gregarious, roosting communally in large flocks and making their presence only too obvious. As single birds or pairs, parakeets are still widely sold as pets.
Flocks have been seen in several places across SE16, especially in the parks and gardens where they can easily find the fruit, berries, nuts and seeds, grain and household scraps they survive on. Their bright colouring and noisy communal behaviour can make them difficult to miss! Some folk have been worried that they are an exotic species who have escaped from captivity and are in danger of predation or privation.The truth is that there have been sightings of parakeets in isolated pockets since 1855 and that since the 1970s, birds deliberately released or those who escaped have formed the nucleus of huge flocks – their population in the UK is now estimated at 8,600 – that have settled famously in south-west London. These raucous neighbours have become known as Kingston parakeets!
The rose-ringed parakeet – to give them their proper name – is as common in it’s homeland of lowland India as our native starlings. Their native range is a broad belt of arid tropical countryside stretching from west Africa to India south of the Himalayas. Sadly the pet trade has significantly diminished their numbers today. The male is distinguished by the a prominent black and pink ring around it’s neck whilst juveniles and females either lack this entirely or only have a grey ring. Generally these parakeets are hole-nesters preferring a pre-existing nest box or woodpecker’s nest hole. They start nesting in January and can continue laying through to June. The female lays 2-4 eggs, and incubates them for three weeks. The young are cared for by both parents, and fledge when they are 40-50 days old. Their nesting success is very high. They normally mature to breed when they are three years old.
In the UK, ring-necked parakeets are mostly urban birds as they have become dependent on bird tables and garden feeders, especially through the winter months. In their native populations, ring-necked parakeets depend solely on fruit and nuts, seeds and grain but in Canada Water and the wider urban sprawl they have become omnivorous, taking kitchen scraps and other waste when it is available.They feed most actively in the early morning and late afternoon, with midday hours devoted to other activities, such as preening and loafing. Some people enjoy their presence as a bright part of the Rotherhithe and Bermondsey wildlife whilst others have raised concerns that they will displace native species and might damage fruit crops, especially in Kent. No conclusive evidence either way has yet been brought forward and it remains illegal both to take them from the wild or release them from captivity. They certainly seem to be here in SE16 to stay!