Sixteen Days Wild – Parakeet VS Pigeon

It is time to answer the age old question, ‘who would win in a fight between a parakeet and a pigeon?’

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Parakeets have been spreading around the country, moving from city to city since 1969. The stories of how they first appeared in South London are mixed. Some people claim it was Jimi Hendrix who first turned them loose, while others credit (or blame depending on your feelings towards them) the film ‘African Queen’. Either way, they bred successfully and have continued to do so. There are now thousands upon thousands of the little characters squawking in our trees.

They are a controversial bird, splitting opinions among ornithologists and the bird loving community. Some people resent them and say they are an invasive species, wiping out our native birds. Some people love them and just roll with the punches of our ever changing environment. There’s a political metaphor in there somewhere… Whatever people’s feelings about them, parakeets are here to stay.

Another bird that breeds very well, is the feral pigeon. In fact, it is the most common bird species in Europe. This is another bird that splits opinion, and again another bird that we are responsible for. Pigeons were first domesticated over 5000 years ago and possibly as long ago as 10,000 years. They have been bred for food, carrying messages and even racing. This multipurpose, revered bird has lost its popularity in recent years though and can often be found eating questionable items off the floor. The descendant of the Rock Dove has hit rock bottom.

So, with a new bird rapidly spreading through our urban landscapes. Will there come a day when the parakeet replaces the pigeon? Probably not, but let’s take a look at them both anyway.

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Even though the parakeet is more streamlined, it can’t match the incredible speeds of the pigeon. Who’d have thought such a plump bird would pack such power? The lifespan is where things get a bit fuzzy. In captivity, parakeets can live for up to 30 years, but the oldest wild bird identified in the UK was 7 years old. I suppose we still don’t know enough about them to say. It is highly possible that some of the offspring of those first few birds could still be around today.

Another thing to consider is that pigeons have been here for such a long time that they have evolved to thrive. Feral parakeets may have been here for long enough to adapt to our climate, but they are yet to evolve from the original domestic birds. I would be very interested to see what a UK ring-necked parakeet will look like in a thousand years. Will they still be uniformed or will they have adopted a range of plumages like the pigeon?

Nobody can say what the future holds for either of these birds, but everyone can speculate, and that is where the fun lies.

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