Tony Drakeford's nature notes

Avian upstarts

Strolling along the Thames towpath towards Kingston on a cold winter's late afternoon, I stop, as far above me on the uppermost branch of a lofty plane tree a song thrush sings.

He is my favourite feathered vocalist, rivalling even the nightingale in my opinion.

I listen enthralled as his rich fluty phrases are flung far and wide. Suddenly, from out of the blue a squadron of loudly yelping rose-ringed parakeets arrows into an adjacent tree, their pre-roost site.

More parakeets fly in to join them, their combined shrieking chatter drowning out the song thrush which, having had enough, flies rapidly off to a distant tree belt across the river.

This is such a shame as song thrushes are declining markedly whereas the parakeet population is expanding rapidly.

Some people may admire the green exotic-looking alien but in reality it is as out of place in our avian community as a Christmas carol being sung in June and way up there with other pest species such as grey squirrel and Canada Goose.

By nesting early in the year, parakeets occupy tree nest holes normally used by nuthatch, woodpecker and jackdaw before the others have a chance to breed. Furthermore, parakeets inhibit bird song of our native species as a visit to the woodland areas of Bushey and Richmond parks will testify. The birds also strip fruit trees and buds (see picture) and target Surrey fruit harvests.

Recently BBC radio Essex telephoned me to ask what I thought of parakeets as the RSPB is considering a cull. I did not mince my words when broadcasting my reply but the problem is that the population is escalating out of control so it may be too late to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, the parakeets all leave amid a cacophony of sound but sadly the song thrush does not return.