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The tropical birds who have made their home in Surrey
By Heather Driscoll-Woodford
BBC Surrey

Parakeet
The birds originate from the foothills of the Himalayas

Look up into the treetops at well-known Surrey beauty spots such as Virginia Water or Hampton Court and you will probably spot our emerald invaders!

And if at first, you can't see them, you will certainly hear them!

Flocks of colourful Ring-necked (Rose-necked - Psittacula krameri) Parakeets are becoming a common sight and have been resident, for longer than you might think!

But now people will be able to shoot them from next year without a licence.

Parakeet
A pair were first recorded as having bred in the wild in 1855

You may assume they need a more tropical climate than Surrey has to offer, but as the birds originate from the foothills of the Himalayas, they find our mild winters easy to cope with.

They eat berries, buds, nuts and seeds, all of which are in plentiful supply in the area, both in the wild and in garden bird feeders.

And due to their size - approximately 40 cm (16 inches) from top to tip of tail, they are able to compete for food and nesting spaces with our native birds.

Although there is some concern that their presence is adversely affecting the native bird species, such as starlings and woodpeckers, there has been no evidence to support this, as yet.

It's believed that there are about 30,000 Ring-necked Parakeets living in the South East of England, mainly in Surrey, with some flocks also sighted in Sussex and Kent.

The RSPB estimates that the population will rise to nearly 50,000 by 2010!

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Ring-necked Parakeets are currently protected by law.
  • Painshill Park Vineyard, near Cobham, apparently spends £5,000 a year on bird scaring devices and repairing damage caused by parakeets, after the green birdies ate grapes that were due to make 3,000 bottles of wine.
  • Esher Rugby Club was the place to see up to 7000 Ring-necked Parakeets at play, until some unrelated tree surgery destroyed their roosts. The girl's team at the club was named after the birds.
    However, not all Esher residents were fans - a footpath had to be closed due to the amount of parakeet poo that had been deposited on it!

MENACE OR MARVEL?

Grahame Madge from the RSPB visits Burhill Golf Club in Surrey - a stronghold for the green birds. Watch the BBC News TV report.

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Grahame Madge on the exotic ring-necked parakeet

WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?

Various suggestions have been made as to how these birds came to be in the wild:

One popular rumour is that a few birds, who presumably didn't want a career in the movies, fled from Shepperton Film Studios, during the making of the John Houston film "The African Queen", with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, in 1951.

Parakeet

Musician Jimi Hendrix has been blamed too! He allegedly released a pair of parakeets into the skies above Carnaby Street, in the 1960's.

Flocks which first appeared in the London/Thames Valley area in the 1980's, led to the theory that parakeet escapees had broken out of incoming cargo at Heathrow Airport, and made a winged dash to freedom, past UK customs!

But the likelihood is, they have been around for over a century, and their origins in the UK are far less glamorous, than the rumours suggest.

A pair were first recorded as having bred in the wild in 1855, and sightings have been steadily growing since the 1930's.

As a species, the birds don't tend to stray too far from where they hatched, so the likelihood is they are from more than one pair of domestic birds, who made it into the wild, probably by being released deliberately.

LICENCE TO KILL

But now, people will be able to shoot parakeets under a general licence, a wildlife watchdog has ruled.

This means that under specific circumstances they can be shot.

The licence will now exist permanently for the birds so people will no longer have to apply by letter for a specific licence to shoot them, as long as they are acting under the general licence terms.

This doesn't mean that anyone can go into Richmond Park and just shoot or strangle a parakeet
Natural England

The watchdog says they can threaten smaller birds, crops and public safety.

The move gives parakeets the same legal status as pigeons, crows and magpies.

A Natural England spokesman said: "They are still a protected species but there will be some circumstances where people can take measures to control them."

PROJECT PARAKEET

Project Parakeet is being run by ecologists at the Imperial College London. They are looking at the impact of parakeets on UK biodiversity. They rely on volunteers to help count the parakeet population and for observations of feeding competition between the parakeets and garden birds. To find out more, see www.projectparakeet.co.uk

HAVE YOU SEEN A PARAKEET IN SURREY?

I see them regularly in Shirley, Croydon. There is a 60-foot Ponderosa pine in the garden at the back on me. The parakeets love this tree, I think they nest in it.

Margery

We live in Wallington. Parakeets r a common sight in our garden, they like my wind chime, magpies seem to like picking fights with them.

Nancy, Wallington

Yes, we have parakeets in Chilworth too! You hear them before you see them!

Bridget

I live in West Molesey, Surrey and every morning at 5am when i take the dog for a walk parakeets fly over in small groups and land in nearby trees in the park before flying off again. The same can be said in the evening. There is nearly always a bird flying ahead of the group which my husband has decided is the scout. They always make lots of noise, which I don't mind as its a nice sound to start a happy day along with the doves, woodpigeons, sparrows, tits, blackbirds, magpies, robins, starlings, jackdaw and sparrow hawks to name just a few of the birds that can be spotted.

Liz

I saw a lot of them last summer in Kew Gardens (near Victoria Gate) - as a tourist I was surprised and delighted of course.

Maryse

I spotted some flying around Chobham Rugby Club when I used to live opposite 18 months ago.

Dennis Auton

I'm currently staying with my parents in Englefield Green, Surrey and the birds are regular visits to the garden. I'm looking at 3 now . They are a welcome splash of colour, but all the birds are welcome and there is enough food for all.

Dawn Bovingdon

I've recently moved to the town of Worcester Park. The distinct call of Parakeets can be heard around the local cricket green. The numbers don't seem to be very big at all, but the birds are definitely to be found here.

Riaan Ferreira

We have them living in the trees of our garden in Brockham. They have been huge in numbers in the Brockham and Betchworth area for a long time, several years. Noisy but cute!

Lynne Skinner

My attention was drawn to this bird when I saw several of the species in the closed-off gardeners' area in Hyde Park, London, last year. They were gathering around a bird feeder in a couple of trees in front of a small war memorial where I had noticed some squirrels running around.

Ken Davies

Some mornings around 7am and earlier as the summer approaches I hear and sometime see in the large trees surrounding the A23 at Horley disturbance caused by either Rooks or Crows "clashing" with the green invaders and to be honest its a refreshing sight to see something different flying about. The parakeets always fly north when they give up so maybe they`re the Redhill flock as mentioned already ... I had known of and have seen the birds in Richmond Park and around Hampton Court and it was only though this that I recognised what they were over Horley...

Alan D

We have seen groups of the parakeets in the tall trees in our garden in Redhill for the past two years, mainly first thing in the morning, and late afternoon, but they have never been seen on our bird table. We have plenty of other birds, too, so they don't seem to be causing too much of a problem, as yet. They lend a bit of colour to the garden, and they don't seem too much of a nuisance, so far.

Jan

I live close to Esher Rugby Club, where the largest numbers of parakeets can be found. The most common visitors to my bird table are starlings so they seem to be having no adverse effect. I also regularly photograph a green woodpecker in my garden who comes to feed from the ground.

Julie, Surrey

Our fruit and nut farmers are already suffering because of Government inaction. Is this 'Grey Squirrel' of the skies going to be our new House Sparrow? I know my preference!

MS

I live in Chipstead - a largely rural area about 5 miles North of Redhill. They are a common site here and seem to live happily alongside the other birds.

JG

I lived in New Malden about 8 years ago and I remember I saw them in Richmond Park and thought it must be someone's pet but now I know.

David Jo

I have been working around west London for the last 27 years, and have noticed the parakeets expand their territory all along the Thames and beyond. ,I live in Woking, Goldsworth Park and they are now regular visitors (daily) over the last two years basis. Better than magpies.

Paul Greener

They fly over our house in their hundreds every evening just before dark. This is in Redhill

Jane

There is still a flock in Redhill - I am seeing several birds every day in and around our garden - haven't yet seen more than 10 in one go but very recognisable from their shrieking.

Mike Davies

I'm not from England so have no opinion of whether these birds are a nuisance or not, but I must say... They sure are pretty. Thank you BBC. I really did need a bit of cheer today.

Mary Tassell

There is a flock that is going round trees in Redhill. They stayed one night only in a tree next to our house. Perhaps they did not like the neighbourhood.

Anne Wade

Email us at surrey@bbc.co.uk if you have seen Ring -necked parakeets in your part of Surrey.




SEE ALSO
Exotic animals 'found wild in UK'
21 Jun 10 |  Humberside
The Surrey puma: Fact or fiction?
17 Feb 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
In pictures: Ring-necked parakeets
02 Oct 09 |  People & Places
How do parakeets survive in the UK?
22 Mar 07 |  Magazine
'Problem' parakeets can be shot
01 Oct 09 |  London
In pictures: Suburban parakeets
27 Mar 07 |  In Pictures
Exotic parakeets roost in London
05 Dec 08 |  Science & Environment
Parakeets - a green menace?
15 Oct 08 |  Science & Environment
Wild parrots settle in suburbs
06 Jul 04 |  Education
A flying fancy
24 Oct 05 |  Magazine

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