Polly wants an apple
Country Life UK|January 12, 2022
Ring-necked parakeets have made themselves at home across London and beyond, but how did these birds come to swap tropical climes for our grey shores, asks Claire Jackson
Claire Jackson
THE final notes of the overture to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro end triumphantly, but, as applause ripples through the Opera Holland Park audience, there is a loud, prolonged squawk. Figaro and Susanna’s appraisal of their soon-to-be marital quarters is interrupted by hecklers from a nearby horsechestnut tree. It appears the parakeets are not fans of opera comic. For some, the birds’ calls—the occasional peacock also makes its presence known—enhance the charming setting at the former London home of the Earl of Ilchester, but others rattle at the penetrating squalls. They’re not only in Holland Park: ring-necked parakeets have made themselves well and truly at home across London, with colonies now spreading throughout England and beyond; there have even been recent sightings in Scotland. But how did these gregarious green avians come to swap tropical climes for our grey shores?

Wild parakeets were first documented in the UK in 1970, when they were observed living in London parks. It was speculated that the flocks originated from birds released from the set of The African Queen at Shepperton Studios in 1951. Similarly, Jimi Hendrix is said to have freed his parakeets along Carnaby Street. As tantalising as these tales are, it’s unlikely that today’s birds can be traced directly to these escapees. However, the first breeding pairs were undoubtedly former pets; the ring-necked parakeet was a popular addition to Victorian households attracted to its bright plumage.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM COUNTRY LIFE UKView All

Seeing the best in Britain

In this anniversary issue, Simon Jenkins considers what COUNTRY LIFE does each week and why it matters so much.

6 mins read
Country Life UK
May 11, 2022

The cow that went global

The shorthorn cow is coming into its own again. Jamie Blackett celebrates the 200th anniversary of the herdbook and the legacy of a dedicated farmer

4 mins read
Country Life UK
May 11, 2022

In the footsteps of giants

After decades of thoughtful restoration, the gardens at Folly Farm offer a masterclass in maintaining an historic garden and simultaneously celebrating the best in contemporary planting, finds Tiffany Daneff

9 mins read
Country Life UK
May 11, 2022

Strawberries taste good

A Chardin still life makes a record price in a good week for French and Italian art

4 mins read
Country Life UK
April 20, 2022

Tradition and modernity

The imaginative extension of a farmhouse in the spirit of Lutyens and the Arts-and-Crafts Movement has created a delightful and humane family home, Jeremy Musson reports

7 mins read
Country Life UK
April 20, 2022

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Britain's greatest masterpieces

4 mins read
Country Life UK
May 11, 2022

Do you believe in cod?

Greedy and gormless, this is no sexy fish, but, on the plate, perfectly pearlescent cod is easily the equal of halibut or Dover sole, believes Tom Parker Bowles

4 mins read
Country Life UK
May 11, 2022

Loyal toasts

Friends of COUNTRY LIFE tell Katy Birchall why they enjoy the magazine, from the riddle to rare breeds, fine architecture to Tottering-by-Gently

9 mins read
Country Life UK
May 11, 2022

Another brick in the wall

One brick might be a humble entity, but put many in the right hands and you have a work of art. Jack Watkins examines the history of this seemingly simple building material

4 mins read
Country Life UK
May 11, 2022

A front-row seat

COUNTRY LIFE has been commenting on the state of the nation for 125 years. Sometimes, the past seems wholly removed, but there are moments when it all seems startlingly familiar

7 mins read
Country Life UK
May 11, 2022
RELATED STORIES

Channing & Zoë MOVING IN TOGETHER!

It's official - Channing Tatum and girlfriend Zoë Kravitz are shacking up.

1 min read
inTouch
May 09, 2022

THE MASTERMIND

Emma Grede, the quiet power source behind two of fashions most viral success stories, steps into the spotlight.

8 mins read
ELLE
April 2022

The WFH Experts In Hot Demand

Professors who’ve long studied remote work are now sought-after business advisers

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
March 14, 2022

5 Habits of the World's Longest-Living People

A few quick steps can make the aging process go a lot slower

1 min read
Closer US
March 07, 2022

Is a Cure for Hangovers Finally Here? More Evidence Needed

Sadly, science has yet to deliver on a surefire cure for a head-pounding alcohol-induced hangover, but a recent analysis of research has found a sliver of hope.

1 min read
Wine Spectator
April 30, 2022

CRIMZON CLOVER

Revisiting a shmup that rivals the genre’s best.

8 mins read
PC Gamer US Edition
April 2022

Can We Fix San Francisco?

San Fransicko author Michael Shellenberger on homelessness, crime, addiction, and his differences with progressives and libertarians

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
April 2022

MEGHAN'S BIG WIN!

Meghan’s estranged father leaked the letter, written after he skipped her 2018 wedding.

1 min read
Star
December 20, 2021

5 Reasons to Stay Bullish on Crypto

After a rough stretch, it’s time to start thinking about the future.

2 mins read
Innovation & Tech Today
Fall 2021

Abby Ryan Mooring: “Hard Work Pays Off”

Exceptionally talented fashion model/actress success mantra "patience, patience, patience and persistence”

9 mins read
Women Fitness
November 2021