Parakeets In The U.K. – How Did They Get Here?

Visitors to city parks in London and across the U.K. are greeted with a peculiar squawking sound more frequently than ever before. It is unlike any of the “prettier” songs from our garden birds or the calls of any common raptors. When we look up, we see that the sound belongs to an extraordinary bird that looks more at home in a foreign land or zoo than in the British countryside. That is because the U.K. is now home to a resident population of green parakeets. In this article I will answer the question, ‘How did Parakeets get to the U.K.?’

It is generally accepted that the most likely reason for wild Parakeets being found in the U.K. is that an original pair of breeding birds brought to London must have escaped. These birds would likely have fled some zoo or private collection and managed to survive in the wild. It was much more common for people to have exotic pets in the mid-century, so an escaped parakeet is highly possible.

But, what are they, where do they originate from, where else could they have come from and could we ever expect to feed them in our gardens?

Beautiful Green Parakeets That Are Wild In The UK

These beautiful green birds are Ring-necked Parakeets, sometimes also known as Rose-ringed Parakeets. They are the only naturalised parrot species in the U.K. and the Northernmost breeder. The bird’s distinctive call, green plumage, and long tail make them unmistakable when spotted. They are most commonly found in South-eastern parts of the U.K., especially in city parks around London. Yet, other populations do exist across the country and they can appear in gardens.

Information from

The growth in numbers has led to concerns about the impact of this non-native parakeet on native avian species. There are also differing opinions based on their looks, noise levels, and experiences with them while in the park. However, there is no doubt that this is an interesting species and one to seek out if you haven’t seen it before. So, where should you go to see them, how can you identify them, and can you bring them to your garden. Below, you can learn about all that and the potential impact of this naturalised species on native wildlife.

How To Identify Ring-necked Parakeets.

Ring-necked parakeets are one of the most distinctive-looking birds that we get in this country as there is nothing else like it. For a start, the majority of these birds are vividly green – a colour rarely seen in the avian world in this country. There may be times when you see a flock of parakeets and spot one that looks a little bluer. As you will see below, this leads to some interesting questions about the bird’s origins. But, there are usually various shades of green with some darker feathers and some with a more yellow-green tone.

The term ring-necked comes from the dark band of feathers around the neck, a bit like a collar. It is sometimes referred to as a rose-ringed parakeet because of the rose-tone beneath the darker back. This is harder to spot unless you have good binoculars or get a hands-on experience. Another notable feature is the red parrot-like bill that is perfect for dealing with the birds varied diet.

The birds aren’t as big as you may expect, as they can perch easily on a tree branch and a much smaller than your average parrot. Still, they are significantly bigger than common pet birds like budgies and lorikeets. Their tail is one of the more prominent features due to the ratio of its length compared to the length of the boy. This, and the shape of the wings, gives the bird a distinctive silhouette in flight. This helps with identification when you can’t see the bright green plumage against a bright sky.

Where To Find Ring-necked Parakeets In The UK?

It is easier than ever to find ring-necked parakeets across the country because they have spread out with successive generations. Typically, you will find parakeets in city parks. London has a substantial population of flocks that feed and roost in the trees of these vast green spaces. There was a time when Kensington Gardens was the best place to find them. But, you have a good chance of spotting them in many other parks across the capital too.

Elsewhere in the U.K., colonies have appeared in similar habitats in other cities. The RPSB estimated that there were 8,600 breeding pairs across the U.K. in 2018, although that number is sure to be much higher now as more populations appear. There are two reasons for this and it all depends on the location. The majority of colonies are found in the South East of the country. Over the decades, the generations grew and the parakeets spread out to find new territories.

However, there is debate over whether or not some populations are separate genetically due to characteristics and location. For example, there is a steady population in a large park in Plymouth – a long way west from the colonies in London and the South East. The popular belief here is that they result from a separate escaped pair of birds. However, the frequency of sightings of blue parakeets – or at least a more blue-green tone – suggests that one ancestor wasn’t a typical Ring-necked Parakeet at all.

Listen Out For Parakeets And You Will Soon See Them!

Also, remember to listen out for parakeets if you go out looking for them. This is a noisy bird – which is one of the reasons they aren’t popular with everyone. They have a harsh chattery squawking sound to communicate with the rest of the flock. Once you hear it, you won’t be able to mistake it for anything else. Nor will you forget it. You could find yourself in another city, hear the squawk, and know there must be some nearby. When you do, look up to see if any are flying overhead or if they are up in a nearby tree.

During the middle of the day, they could be feeding together nearby. Around sunset, they can be pretty vocal in the evenings as they settle into their roost for the night. It is also possible to get used to the routines and preferred locations of a colony in your area and to time your sighting. You may be able to watch them all leave their feeding ground as a large group and fly in a beautiful formation to their roost. This can allow for some great photographic opportunities. The same is true when they settle to feed, something that you may be able to take advantage of at home.

Can You Feed Wild Ring-necked Parakeets In Your Garden?

This is a big question for many bird lovers that are aware of wild parakeet populations in their area. It is one thing to head out and see them in a park or woodland, but can you get them to come to you? The good news is that there are plenty of reports of people successfully feeding parakeets in their garden. This is an excellent idea in winter when food can be scarce. You can put out an array of options on a bird table rather than a conventional feeder.

These birds can thrive in the U.K., where food is plentiful because they have such a varied died. They like fruit, berries, seeds, and grain. So, you can easily put these out and see what they like. But, be patient as it may take them a while to spot the table as they fly around. But, once they know that there is a new opportunity for a good meal, they should be back for more.

On the subject of feeding parakeets, there are also places in London where birds have become so used to people that they are hand-fed. Visitors hold out fruit that has fallen from the tree and marvel as the parakeets fly to their hands for a snack.

Where Did These Wild UK Parakeets Come From?

The last thing we want to do is take these birds for granted or fail to appreciate their place in the ecosystem. To better appreciate these birds, we need to understand their origin. This isn’t a native bird and although it is a resident now, it hasn’t been here for very long relative to other species. The first pairs were bred in London as recently as the 1970s. Ring-necked parakeets are originally from more tropical climates from West Africa over to Lowland India, where they thrive in large numbers are a common sight.

So how did the first pair of parakeets get to London? If they were escapees from a zoo or private collection, then it’s possible that these birds found their way into the wild and managed to survive in the U.K.

Interesting Fact: There were some old folk tales for a while. One was that the ancestors of the birds we see today belonged to Jimi Hendrix and were deliberately released.

The story goes that he set a pair of parakeets free on Carnaby Street in 1968 as a symbol of peace. While the date fits with the first breeding pair in the 1970s, the myth was debunked. Others said that the first birds came from the Ealing-based set of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. But, this was in 1951 and too early. So, we will probably never know where the U.K. wild parakeet population originated.

Are Parakeets A Problem In The UK?

There is a strong divide between those that love the birds because of their beauty and those feeding opportunities. But, some worry that the birds could end up becoming an ecological problem. Feeding parakeets in parks and gardens is a lot of fun, and they are also a great way to get kids in urban environments interested in birdwatching. However, there are concerns that large populations of parakeets are harmful to other avian species in the area.

Non-native birds always come with a risk of out-competing native birds for food and nesting sites. Parakeets like to nest in natural holes in trees where possible for warmth or will roost together in branches of large trees. The problem with the former is that woodpeckers and nuthatches also need these holes in woodland and city parks to raise their own young. If these woodpeckers are pushed out, this could have a negative effect on their survival. There are also concerns that there are too many parakeets and that they will eat all the food needed by other native birds. This all depends on the harshness of the seasons and supplemental feeding.

Are There Ways Of Controlling Parakeet Numbers?

Population control is a tricky subject with any non-native species. We want to enjoy naturalised populations without them getting out of hand. As wild U.K. birds, they are protected from deliberate harm. However, where parakeets are causing problems, there could be an argument in favour of a cull. This subject is controversial as many nature-lovers don’t want any birds killed unnecessarily.

The other possibility for natural population control is that predators will get a taste for parakeets and keep numbers at a more manageable level. There are reports that Peregrine Falcons in London have learnt that parakeets are a tasty meal. They are undoubtedly agile and fast enough to catch them. There is also the potential for other raptor species such as Sparrowhawks to take advantage of this easy-to-spot food source.

Make The Most Of Ring-Necked Parakeets In Your Area.

Ignoring all the negative press attention this bird gets, we can’t deny that it is an endearing creature that is a joy to watch and photograph. Unfortunately, we aren’t all going to be lucky enough to have hand-feeding experiences in our local park. But, there may be a population in an urban green space not too far away. So, take the time to head out, listen for the calls, and see what you can find. Also, if you are aware of a colony in your area, you could try putting out fruit and seeds on a bird table in case they want to drop by.

The Ring-necked Parakeet is the most exotic bird naturalised in the U.K. It is a privilege to have this wild parakeet species – regardless of how it became a wild bird. Once you’ve found one, you won’t forget it.

See Also



I'm Wayne. For many years, I have been a fan of feeding the birds in my back garden and often asked myself questions about what I was seeing. This prompted me to research things further and I have continued to do so ever since. This is the site where I share everything I have learned.

Recent Posts