In reality, they are not very mysterious at all. In fact, there are over 8000 breeding pairs of ring-necked parakeets living in London. However, it is always a surprise the first time you witness these exotic green birds flying through a city like London. The origin story of these cheerful and loud rose-ringed parakeets is where the true mystery lies.
Many celebrities have become entangled in the urban myths that circulate around London’s parakeets. Jimi Hendrix supposedly released a breeding pair in the 60s, George Michael’s secret aviary was broken into in the 90s, or Boy George’s parakeets escaped from a secret flat in Brockley. Another story told explains their existence as exotic extras that escaped from the set of the African Queen, or that they fled from Henry VIII’s menagerie at Hampton Court Palace.
Boy George’s parakeets escaped from a secret flat in Brockley
It has been suggested that a large number of aviaries were wrecked in the Great Storm of 1987, or that they escaped from the livestock transportation area in nearby Heathrow airport. In truth, parakeets have been popular as pets for hundreds of years, and there is no way of estimating how many have arrived at the busy docks of London throughout the times.
However mysterious their origin is, these birds have become a part of the city’s collective imagination and a part of London’s urban history. They are thriving in their environment, and provide a lot of entertainment for locals and tourists alike.
You can find the parakeets anywhere in Greater London these days, but if you want to increase your chances of spotting these beautiful birds, head to Kensington Gardens and have a seat on any bench, they will find you. If you bring some fruit with you, they will happily eat out of your hand. These shrieking birds are essentially trained for Instagram and will know what to do when they see your phone.