Well how about this for Newcastle wildlife? I thought Bird of the Week was going to take a break but then I saw these birds at the weekend and couldn't resist sharing them. These ring-necked parakeets are on the Town Moor in Newcastle upon Tyne. I have previously seen them in London but this is the first time I had a decent view. They are noisy and they fly fast, circling round and round and calling to each other. They are about the size of magpies.
For those of you who haven't been here, the sky is always this colour in Newcastle! (I wish.)
The ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri) is also known as the rose-ringed parakeet. The adult males have a black and red neck ring but I couldn't see any on the birds I was watching. I suppose it is possible this was a hen party or that these are immature birds. They are long-lived and usually don't breed until they are three years old. Perhaps the mature birds are already paired and nesting. I read that feral parakeets are often hybrids between different subspecies of Psittacula krameri but I don't know whether this would affect their colouration. These two below were engaged in what looked like courtship behaviour (known as a beak-lock) and I would guess the upper bird is a male. Looking at them I can't tell them apart.
These are fairly shy birds so I hid in the shade of a fence with overhanging ivy. With a strong sun in their eyes I don't think they could see me. One bird came and sat directly above me. This made photography very difficult and gave me a crick in my neck.
At one point I could see eight birds at the same time and hear others in the trees behind me. Here are six in the same frame.
Ring necked parakeets have been feral in the UK for quite a few years but are mostly in the south east. One story I read is that the UK population was started by birds that escaped from Ealing Studios after the filming of The African Queen (1951) starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Other stories are that they were released by Jimi Hendrix in Carnaby Street in the 1960s or that they escaped during the Great Storm of 1987. The population boom didn't start until the 1990s and there are now estimated to be over 20,000 birds in the UK. I don't know how long these birds have been in Newcastle.
Ring-necked parakeets are still found mostly in the south east and London but these BTO Bird Atlas maps show their distribution.
You can listen to Sir David Attenborough's BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the Day here. And watch a few short BBC Nature videos on parakeets with Chris Packham, Bille Oddie and Sir David Attenborough here.