July 14, 2010

This week in wildlife

It's thought there are tens of thousands of ring-necked parakeets living in the South-East, and they're certainly much in evidence in Teddington, where dozens of them screech and gibber at the staff arriving for work at the television tudios each morning, calling down from perches high in the big horse chestnuts and ash trees by the river. Richmond Park has huge flocks, several hundred strong, and even at our house in Streatham they fly over, often in pairs, screaming to one another like strange intimations of the tropics in grimy South London.
They've been breeding here for over 40 years and each year their numbers increase and their range grows. It's thought they outcompete other species for food, and some studies have shown a decrease in numbers of other cavity nesting species in the parakeets' strongholds. There's been talk of an organised cull, and they've been reclassified as a pest species, making it legal for farmers to shoot them if they are posing a danger to crops - along with gulls, crows and magpies. It's certainly true that they're noisy and brash, but you'd have to be pretty damned joyless not to let the sight of a tree decked in bright green birds lift your heart.