The Curious Case of Amsterdam's Parakeets

EnvironmentThe Netherlands

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Close your eyes in Amsterdam's Vondelpark or Oosterpark, and you might think that you're sitting in the jungle. The chattering of Amsterdam's exotic parakeet population will take you to the faraway climes of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, their native habitat. They first appeared in Amsterdam in the 1970s, and, with the population thriving, it's now perfectly common to spot a flash of emerald green in the trees of Amsterdam's parks.

A friendly face - but what are they doing here?

A friendly face - but what are they doing here?
inavanhateren/123RF

There are many theories regarding how the parakeets came to Amsterdam. Some say that when the birds were popular as pets, some owners got tired of them and released them. According to another story a truck transporting hundreds of the brightly colored birds overturned, allowing them all to escape. Yet another theory suggests they escaped from the nearby Artis zoo. There are even locals that would tell you that someone just wanted to brighten up the city.

However they came to be there, they managed to not only survive Amsterdam's harsh winters, but even thrive, with numbers almost doubling between 2004 and 2010.They adaptable birds have survived the cold by living together in trees and sustaining themselves on nuts, grains, and leftovers left on the streets of the city by locals and tourists.

Surely there is nothing wrong with a decorative addition to the capital's streets? Well, some people aren't happy. A number of ecologists are concerned that the hardy creatures will outcompete other native species such as woodpeckers, and those keeping crops have invested in bird scarers, as in the parakeets indigenous India, where they are considered pests.

The plucky birds are making themselves at home in Amsterdam

The plucky birds are making themselves at home in Amsterdam
Monceau/flickr.com

But for now, there's no real evidence for this, and the population seems to be somewhat limited by the climate. They're yet another reason to head to Amsterdam, along with the city's gorgeous architecture, world-class museums and theatres, and...what was the other one again..?

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Christopher Sargent
Posted on 10/09/2017 Modified on 11/09/2017
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