(Headline copyright The Daily Mail)
Post written Weds 13th May.
A passing acquaintance of mine, who’s had the pleasure/misfortune (delete as appropriate) to listen to me wax lyrical about the Pochards & the Grebes, came chasing after me in the street yesterday (when I really needed the distraction) – “Rob help me out. I’m sure I saw a parrot the other day, am I going mad, seeing things or what?” I’m happy to say that with my (very far from) encyclopaedic knowledge I was able to set his mind at ease.
The Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri,) another non-native species, is far more exotic yet paradoxically more populous & widespread in the UK than the Red-crested Pochard, outnumbering them by something like 50-1 or thereabouts. As with all “alien” species, it is thought that the first birds in the wild were escapees from careless owners.
They did not waste any time in becoming feral, and the population grew exponentially, to the effect that there are now anything from 12-20 000 birds resident in the UK. Personally, I think that either by massive coincidence or good ol’ synchronicity, (or maybe there was some kind of Parakeet sleeper cell waiting for a sign…) hundreds of them escaped at the same time – how else to explain the sheer numbers?
They are to be found even in the inner city – while my local park falls within the sound of the Division Bell (rung in Parliament to call MPs to a vote) there is a small population; I had thought only 2 or 3 but the other day a flock of 7 flew over, and today I found a 2nd nesting hole (see last para. :-))
The further out of town you travel, the greater the number of birds to be found. Some good friends and I used to visit a park beside Sidcup Golf Course, where one day I counted at least 2 dozen. Of course it goes without saying that, as they are very vocal, the greater the number of birds the greater the noise. With their unmistakable “squawking screech” they are easy to identify, and impossible to ignore!
From what I had read online, their mating is both very noisy & rather agressive. From my own observations however, nothing could be further from the truth.
Their courtship ritual is really quite sweet, with the male spending a great deal of time preening the female before “getting down to business”:
Whilst mating the male may (as with most, if not all, bird species) hold the female by the neck but, as the image below shows, that is not always the case:
Afterwards of course, as with all creatures (homo sapiens included :-)) there is very little post-coital contact, not even so much as a cuddle!
I have had the privilege of witnessing these birds mate no fewer than 4 times this year which, given that they are natives of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and I’m a Jock living in south London, is pretty amazing! And now that I’ve identified 2 different nesting holes the chances are that I may well be on hand to see the fledglings emerge from at least one of them. In fact from what I saw today I think the bird in the 2nd nest may have already laid.
Watch this space…