Did Jimi Hendrix Release Green Parrots Into London’s Parks?
If you visit any of London’s parks including Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill, Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens then it’s likely that you will have spotted a pandemonium of bright green parrots squawking overhead.
These birds are ring-necked or rose-ringed parakeets and an urban myth has it that Jimi Hendrix was responsible for them living in the wild after he released a pair in Carnaby Street in the 1960s.
There are a number of other theories of how the population established itself; they escaped from Isleworth Studios during the filming of the African Queen in 1951, a pair were released from the Blue Peter Garden in the 1990s and the Great Storm of 1987 damaged aviaries they were housed in so they were able to fly into the wild.
Although, Jimi Hendrix could have contributed to the population explosion of wild ring-necked parakeets he certainly wasn’t the only person responsible.
Escaped parakeets have been living wild in the UK since the 19th century with the first recorded sighting in 1855, although numbers remained low until the 1970s with the population currently standing at about 9,000 breeding pairs. However, estimates put the total number much higher at 50,000 birds.
Ring-necked parakeets are found mainly in parks and orchards in south-east England, particularly London, Surrey, Kent and Sussex, but have been spotted as far north as Manchester, and will even venture into people’s gardens, particularly during the winter. The parrots have become acclimatized here and are able to live and breed. However, they may star to cause problems for native birds as their numbers increase, in particular woodpeckers, starlings and nuthatches who they compete with for nesting holes.
Ring-necked parakeets are considered a pest and in 2010 they were included on the General Licence, which means they can be legally shot but only to prevent serious damage to agricultural crops or if they are threatening a native species.