By Don Pepper
This first appeared in January 2010
In October last year, Natural England – which advises the government on the natural environment – caused a stir by announcing changes to its licensing agreements concerning the culling of monk and ring-necked parakeets. The changes became official on 1 January this year (2010) and allow landowners and farmers to shoot ring-necked parakeets where they are deemed to be damaging crops, affecting native wildlife, or causing concerns over public health and safety. The parrots, introduced into the English countryside either deliberately or by escape from captivity, have become so successful that they are now considered a pest by some people.
There are several stories about how these birds were introduced, including the tale that they escaped from Ealing Studios after the making of the film The African Queen in the 1950s. They survive so well in our climate because they come from the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India, where it can get very cold.
Here in Finchley, the bright green ring-necked parakeet can regularly be found along the Dollis Brook and on Dollis Open Space. They could appear in your garden any time. You may certainly hear their distinctive squawks even if you don’t see them.
If you like seeing birds in your garden then why not join in with the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch during the last weekend of January? All you have to do is keep watch for a single hour and note down all the different birds you see. This helps the RSPB keep track of changes in our birdlife. Now in its 31st year, this is one of the biggest wildife surveys in the world and last year more than half a million people took part. If you want to know more and to find out what to do, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch
Afterthought: For centuries people have chosen to keep birds and animals in cages for study, company or just novelty. I personally do not need to get enjoyment from nature through wired cages. Britain has a wealth of wildlife which you can view just by going into the countryside – or into your back garden with a pair of binoculars. However, if we do decide to incarcerate animals we should maintain the responsibility that this decision entails; yet we still don’t learn from our mistakes, and this includes some wildlife organisations.
A word of warning
It is still illegal to shoot parakeets in your back garden.
Doing so could lead to a £1,000 fine or up to six months in prison.