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What are the sleek, bright green birds I've seen on Wandsworth Common?

Sent in by Tracey Gardner, London

It sounds like you have seen some ring-necked parakeets. This species is the UK's only naturalised parrot - it is large, long-tailed and green with a red beak and a pink and black ring around its face and neck. It is found mainly in south-east England, particularly London, Surrey, Kent and Sussex feeding on fruit, berries, nuts and seeds.

Parakeets have been popular pets since the Victorian times, and inevitably, many birds have escaped or been deliberately released over the years.

Despite their tropical origin, the parakeets are fully able to cope with the cold British winters, especially in suburban parks, large gardens, and orchards, where food supply is more reliable. They actually originate from the foothills of the Himalayas, so they do not need it to be that warm to live comfortably. There are as many as 50,000 in London.

Ring-necked parakeets are hole-nesters, often taking over an old woodpecker nest hole, or a larger-sized nestbox. They start nesting early, often in January, but some birds lay eggs as late as June.

The early start to the breeding season means that they have a wide choice of nesting sites with little competition for holes. Their main competitors are starlings, and also woodpeckers and owls. These colourful birds are sometimes loved and sometimes hated as garden visitors.

There are concerns of how they may affect our native fauna, and of their impact on fruit-growers. As yet, there have been no problem either way, but as their numbers increase, they may become a problem in the future.

Despite being an introduced species, the ring-necked parakeet is protected in the wild under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. However, it may be killed or taken under the terms of some General Licences. It is illegal to release or allow them to escape into the wild.

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