Even the most die-hard anti-global-warming Jeremy-Clarkson type would have to acknowledge that humanity, as a species, has had a severe effect on the ecosystem. I need not mention such obvious examples as the dodo and the passenger pigeon – in the eighteenth century, it was actually considered a noble thing to make as many animals as possible extinct. Apparently it was something to do with establishing how great we were.
But not only have we been responsible for wiping certain species out, we’ve also put quite a lot of animals into places where they had no business being. Rabbits are a major pest in Australia and wallabies may be found wild in Derbyshire of all places. On occasion, animals end up in odd places due to no direct intervention on the part of humanity. The urban pigeon springs to mind. A coastal bird, they found city buildings to be a most agreeable substitute for their natural habitat in craggy cliff faces.
The other day I saw a couple of examples of some of the more recent arrivals to make their home on our shores (watch out, Daily Mail readers). Unfamiliar birdsong caught my attention, and upon looking up I saw two of the feathered chaps you see above left. As regular viewers of this blog will know, I live in South London, where this species is becoming increasingly common.
They are rose-ringed parakeets. Your boy the rose-ringed parakeet is a popular choice as a pet, being able to mimic human speech. It’s also very adaptable, explaining no doubt how they were able to establish a population here.
They are believed to have originated in South Asia. There are estimated to be about 10,000 in Britain. Exactly how they came to roam wild is unknown, but it doesn’t take an ornithologist to come up with an educated guess. They most likely escaped from captivity, though when and how many escaped is unknown. One rather romantic albeit perhaps unlikely story has it that they are all descended from a pair released by Jimi Hendrix.
They are most commonly sighted in the suburbs of South London, and have been dubbed “the Kingston parakeets,” though Twickenham, Chessington and Richmond have all laid claim to them and they have been sighted as far North as Hampstead. Well, further, too, but beyond Watford is mostly wasteland as far as I can tell. There are believed to be colonies along the South Coast. Further afield, there are also flocks – unrelated to the British ones as far as anyone can tell – in Belgium and the Netherlands.
The parakeets are believed to bring luck – apparently two in your garden is a sign of favourable weather coming up. Less fortunately, there are fears among conservationist-types that, as with the pigeon and the grey squirrel, these green fellows may threaten native animals (not literally, although the concept of a parakeet mugging a sparrow at knifepoint is worth consideration) and eventually have to be hunted down, thus resulting in widespread Monty Python tributes.
Oddly enough, given that they are thriving over here, in their native South Asia they are under threat. Their popularity as pets has resulted in huge numbers being captured and treated in ways that are not good. As a result, the conservationists over there are trying to discourage the pet trade.
[Incidentally, a similar situation exists with the Syrian Golden Hamster, a popular pet that is almost extinct in the wild.]
Of course, if they’re that worried about losing their parakeets, I’m sure we could let them have some of ours. No doubt it would result in a hilarious culture clash as the sophisticated urban parakeets try to get to grips with life in the jungle.