Jan 26, 2011

Parrots of old London town.

In the weeks before Christmas I reported on the parakeets living feral in London. Reading back I thought I would fill things In a little. The most common of the wild living parakeets are the Ring Necked parakeets. These are estimated to have a population of 50,000 ore more in the south east of England. This species is by far the most prolific of the UKs feral parrots and present the all the problems of an invasive species. Quite simply put the Ringnecks are a hole nesting species so all of the indigenous bird are having to compete with the parrots. Now given that a Nutchach and sparrows are dwarfed by the parakeet as are most other species then the outcome is all easy to see. The bigger birds are gaining a foothold in the urban situation and their populations are booming. As daylight falls and roosts begin you can close your eyes and parts of London are starting to sound like the city’s of the Indian sub continent.
The parakeets we are looking at here though are a somewhat different kettle of fish. These are the Monk parakeet, a South American species and although they are classed as pests it is an agricultural pest rather than a threat to the indigenous avian fauna. For this reason I don’t see this species as such a negative addition to the countryside. Recent figures suggest that there may be only fifteen hundred birds spread across the South East of England. Monk parakeets are a communal nesting species and it was this behaviour that I found such a delight when I first found them. Both species are visable about Millwall park and both species are quite obvious by the discordant parrot type noises they make and it was their calls that first drew me through the trees to the nest site. I had seen this structure in the distance and if it had registered at all I would have assumed it was a large squirrel dray. Seeing birds coming in to the tree it soon became obvious that this was a woven nesting structure and the birds were entering it. Considering that it was in the depths of December and the freeze was no upon us I was quite surprised that there was activity going on, but going on it was !!. Thirty foot or so up a tall tree three birds were wrestling sticks in to a huge woven mass of twigs. The whole structure would be six feet tall and two or three foot wide in places. It had four entrances visible from the ground. I don’t know if the passages open up at all for as seems more likely they lead to individual nesting spaces. Settling down a short distance away it was fascinating to watch the coming and going. My presence and that of dog walkers and noisy gangs of kids were going to make no impact on their daily life. They blithely ignored all distractions and carried on, some birds entered holes on arriving and others arrived carrying twigs which they forced and cagouled in to place in an ever extending colony. Watching the comings and goings and the birds interactions was fascinating and unique stuff. I don’t think any bird in Europe nests like this and if they do I would be willing to bet its not on this scale. If you would like a look at this small piece of South American lifestyle whilst in London then take the DLR to Island Gardens station, turn left on leaving and the trees are on the far side of the football pitches in front of you.

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