Rose ringed Parakeets Male Female During Foreplay at Hodal

On his daily constitutional (a highly recommended wander east from 20 The Barons, along St Margarets Road, over Richmond Bridge, and on up Richmond Hill), The Baron never fails to be enchanted by a quirk of the local fauna. The first hint of something unusual is a loud screeching from the treetops that takes him back to his glory days in Asia. As The Baron gazes at the glorious views over Terrace Gardens along the course of the Thames, the sky is lit up by the formation fly-past of a dozen dazzling, lime-green birds. These are the famous Twickenham Parakeets, which have adapted so well to life in Thames Valley suburbia that they now number in their thousands. They are ring-necked parakeets (Psittacula krameri), the only naturalised parrot in the UK. Large and long-tailed, with a direct and pointy-winged flight, their plumage is an array of greens, their beaks the red of an alluring lipstick. A ring of pink and black encircles their necks, giving the impression of a drooping Movember moustache. Richmond Park is at the heart of their distribution, and they are common visitors to local bird tables. Their raucous roosting at such locations as Esher Rugby Ground is among London’s most spectacular twilight experiences. The ring-necked parakeet is native to India, but its origins in the foothills of the Himalayas explain the species’ capacity to survive an English winter. First bred in Britain in 1855, the parakeets did not colonise London’s parks until the 1960s. A population explosion in the ’90s might perhaps be linked to our warming climate. The birds thrive on a plentiful supply of buds and seeds from beech and sweet chestnut, and nest in the tree-hole homes of native nuthatches and woodpeckers. Several urban myths have taken flight around their origins. One traces the birds’ family tree to a breeding pair released on Carnaby Street in the 1960s by Jimi Hendrix, who would no doubt be delighted by the psychedelic flourish their little wings bring to the traditional landscape. Another suggests the original birds escaped from Isleworth Studios, Middlesex, in 1951, during the filming of The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Whatever the truth, the exotic appearance of the Twickenham Parakeets cannot but gladden the heart on a cold winter’s morning.

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