Updated: May 21
Normally so ear-piercingly loud and ‘I've just-rocked-in-town’ proud, she discreetly lands on the edge of an old ceramic cereal bowl. It is a tiny palmed area where she scoops her arched beak. It is tap water because it has not rained for weeks.
Her visits are sporadic, so I haven't named her yet. We, ('we' being Moll-Cat and I) watch her as she bobs and quakes shoulder to shoulder. Her feathers are fluffed-up so it is hard to know if she is cold or wants to sleep. Who knows what she is feeling? She quenches her thirst and knowingly looks up in our direction; she is grateful.
When we left the countryside for the city, we knew we would miss our garden, however, the mountains, nearby beaches and visits from the Monk parakeets are a pretty nice substitute. There are thousands of feral parakeets in Barcelona (South America, Asia and Africa) and surprisingly in the United Kingdom, where there is a small population of these cocky neon birds. How did Parakeets end up living in London city?
There are two stories behind how feral parakeets originally ended up living in the United Kingdom, with the majority of the 8,600 breeding pairs of ring-necked or rose-ringed parakeets swarming around West London and the suburbs. More commonly I used to see them flying in groups of 8-20 around Twickenham, Kew Gardens, Wimbledon Village and Southfields, and they were commonly known as Twickenham Parakeets, Southfield Parakeets and so on. Much like the grey squirrel I once saw, boldly quick-stepping out of my neighbour’s kitchen window with a cheese slice, feral parakeets are vastly becoming more lordly as they push out native birds whilst confidently growing more domesticated.
Despite their bad reputation for being noisy and gregarious, they are egotistically captivating as they flock together eating the crumbs and dribbles in the placa. Monk parakeets are an outsider.
If you Google, 'how did parakeets first arrived in the UK?' It says...."How exactly the parakeet population first came to exist and thrive in the wild in England is not known".
So how did ring-necked (also known as) rose-ringed parakeets, which originate from Africa and South Asia, end up living in the United Kingdom?
Google does not know, but residents of London will tell you two versions, probably of the story. When I first started living amongst the parakeets in Southfields and Wimbledon I was told, "A large group of parakeets escaped from an aviary during the Great Storm of 1987".
I was also told that "A rich English Sir released a large group of parakeets into the wild simply, to let them be".
Both stories appear to be connected, as Sir Stamford Raffles and Sir Humphry Davy opened the world's oldest scientific zoo, London Zoo, in 1826. London Zoo is home to an aviary which was partly destroyed in the Great Storm of 1987.
Foster and Partners (a firm of architects) have been appointed to re-design the now named Snowdon Aviary, located inside London Zoo. I dislike the zoo, as my first encounter at junior school ended in tears because a small group of monkeys looked sad inside a caged area. I was only five so as soon as we approached the pick ‘n’ mix, I was smiling again. Re-designing a space for the complexity of a birds locomotion is a significant challenge, nevertheless with a project budget that's looking like £7.1 million, I am sure Foster and Partners will figure out how to triple the aviary’s dimensions so visitors don't spend their entire visit feeling sorry for its residents.
These gorgeous, Monk parakeets which live in nearby trees appear to intentionally irritate my cat. They see her lolling outside and appear to intentionally hang upside down on one leg or totter along a branch, almost showing-off because they know my cat is watching. I eventually got used to living amongst parakeets in London and I am much the same here in Catalonia. They captivate me as I walk past them. I cannot ignore them. Whereas my colleague, from South America (the origin of the Monk parakeet), commonly compares them to a city pigeon, like an annoying pest, this being the beauty of seeing the same thing differently.
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