Friday, 14 April 2017

Bird of the week - Ring-necked parakeet


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.

5 comments:

  1. These have also been seen regularly in Walker Park and at Nuns Moor where the playcentre is. I wonder if they're the same birds, or different populations?

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    1. I expect they are the same. I've heard that they commute to Walker Park each day.

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  2. I don't know whether the Ealing studios story is true but we certainly have plenty in Ealing. You often hear them before you see them. It is quite a treat to see them flock at night, they seem to like to sleep together and will fill up a tree, swirling round it till they finally settle for the evening.

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  3. I'm so glad you got to photograph them, Chris - and they're beautiful shots against that amazing blue sky! This group was around 16 strong over the late summer and would fly over my house in Fenham, over Stocksfield Ave Primary, to Denton Dene. This year, I have seen them flying much lower than before, much closer to the rooftops than before, and in smaller groups. I always hear them before I see them! Thanks again, Chris, such a privilege to see the details of their feathers, colour etc up close. Suzanne

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    1. Thanks for the tip-off Suzanne. They are great fun to watch. Easy to find as they are so noisy but not so easy to photograph.

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