I live right in the heart of parakeet alley – the ten mile green corridor of the Thames, studded with historic riverside houses such as Syon Park and Ham House, which runs south to north from Hampton Court to Kew Bridge. Here the birds are visible every day, especially in somewhere like Kew Gardens, and having long been in the area I have grown familiar with the wild high screech and the distinctive flight silhouette – rapid wingbeats and a long, long tail.
Like most people I have considered the stunning green creatures a pleasing addition to the local avifauna, but now I’m not so sure. One of the attractions of our small back garden is an old cherry tree which produces a wonderful display of blossom in May, and a fine crop of cherries the following month, Bigger birds, especially woodpigeons, have always taken some of the fruit, which seems fair enough – there have always been some left over for us. Until last June.
Last summer a bunch of parakeets descended on the tree and over several days they methodically stripped it bare. They took the lot. Every damn cherry. In a sense I don’t blame them – they’re only doing what comes naturally – but I found that another part of me resented them strongly for doing it. Don’t ask me to draw conclusions – that’s a moral maze indeed. But I sense that after years of being Mr Popular in the bright green suit, for Psittacula krameri there may be trouble ahead.