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'Parakeets? They're so London', says Jamie Milton

By Time Out London contributor

Jamie doesn’t fear the invasion of our green feathered overlords. In fact, he welcomes it. All praise Keethulu!

There’s nothing tropical about London. That salsa class you flunked doesn’t count. Neither does the Brazil-themed rooftop bar you yap on about. Nothing flourishes in this city except estate agents’ bank accounts and a nagging sense of regret. London is grey, sodden and miserable, even in summer. Right? 

Wrong. We have parakeets. Less birds of prey, more birds of yay!, they have chosen London as their home. They’ve been here for decades and somehow, they haven’t been destroyed by grizzly winters, bigger beasts or the Northern line. While we’re coughing our guts up, our winged friends are thriving, soaking up each solitary ray they can find and dodging skyscrapers when necessary. When you’re feeling down, just realise that we’re actually living in a tropical paradise – we just didn’t realise it. If parakeets can be happy, so can we. Just look at these parakeet facts that we definitely didn’t make up:

Jimi Hendrix might be the reason they’re here

Jimi has given us lots of things, most notably a lineage of Camden-based impersonators. But the best theory about the parakeets’ love for London is that Hendrix once released a couple of loved-up birds into the wild surroundings of Carnaby Street and the two became our very own feathery Adam and Eves, siring the whole London ‘keet population. 

Actually, it might be because of Humphrey Bogart, David Bowie, hurricanes or the war

There are other equally bizarre potential origin stories. Some say they escaped from the Surrey set of Humphrey Bogart’s ‘The African Queen’ and flocked here of their own accord. That’s been discounted by film buffs who claim the birds weren’t even used as extras. Nobody’s disproved the claim that some escaped from David Bowie’s wedding. Others believe they arrived here after the Great Storm of 1987, or that they fled from London Zoo during the Blitz. Whatever the case, they probably didn’t just get lost.

Other birds are terrified

Dubbed ‘the grey squirrel of the skies’ by environmentalist Tony Juniper, parakeets are considered by many countries as pests. How can something so colourful and squawky be anything but a miraculous antidote to our grey skies? For our native bird population, they’re a threat. They eat berries, seeds and buds without giving other species a chance, and their elaborate nests give smaller creatures nowhere to go. There’s a metaphor for gentrification in there somewhere.

They only love us for the puddles

Parakeets are here for the thriving sense of culture, pop-up bars and warm, generous locals, right? Nope. The feathered fellows are bang into rain. They love the stuff. When the heavens open, ’keets get wild. Sipping the elixir of life, they bathe in puddles, coat their wings in water and chirp until the sun comes back. It’s a good time for breeding, too – a process which, since you asked, begins when one bird regurgitates food on to another. They’re as weird
as the rest of us.

By Jamie Milton

Want more ranting and raving? Read Nell Frizzell's column on why being alone doesn't have to be lonely.

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