The Rose-ringed Parakeets of Heidelberg
A Birdy New Year!
This article is about the parrots we have, not the ones we wish we had. Here in Germany, we don’t wish we had. Because we never have had. But now that we do have, and while we may or rather should wish we had not, we might as well roll with the punches and accept that we have.
Yes, Germany has parrots, or parakeets to be more precise. Unlike North America, Germany has never had naturally occurring psittacines that went extinct, and the one we have is a true and complete invasive alien introduction. We are therefore talking true evil here when we are talking about Germany’s Rose-ringed Parakeets.
The Rose-ringed Parakeet naturally occurs in two isolated areas: a thin strip across Africa just south of the Sahara, and south Asia where it is mostly found in India with smaller ranges in adjacent countries. It is commonly kept in captivity and has therefore established many feral populations world-wide originating from escaped / released cage birds. This is what happens when people choose their pet birds on visual factors alone without taking vocalizations into account. Very stupid thing to do.
The Rose-ringed Parakeet’s European (=feral) range is surprisingly coherent for an introduced bird that is dependent on large metropolitan areas, and the species occurs in very decent numbers from UK’s London throughout the Netherland’s large cities all the way up along the Rhine to Germany’s Heidelberg. There are other more isolated populations, e.g. in Hamburg, Berlin, Rome, Paris, and Barcelona. With 7,500 birds (1,500 breeding pairs), the German population is still rather small compared to the numbers the parakeets have built up in the UK or the Netherlands, where the populations range in the 10s of thousands. Birders visiting Germany and wishing to connect with the species might therefore be happy about a few sites, and I have thus summarized the best areas for finding Rose-ringed Parakeets around my stomping grounds, the Heidelberg-Mannheim metropolitan area, below.
Where to find Rose-ringed Parakeets in the Heidelberg-Mannheim metropolitan area
Okay, they are not exactly easy to miss wherever you are so long as the place has older trees. But it does help to know where they hang out most frequently to optimize the little, precious time birders usually have in cities. Here are a few of the hot-spots:
- Main roost (currently) at central railway station, with sometimes more than 700 birds. The roost used to be in front of the “Stadtwerke” (the high chimney with breeding Peregrine Falcons) along Kurfürstenanlage a few hundred metres to the east, but the birds switched to the train station in January 2011. If you find yourself at the railway station early morning before sunrise and all is quiet, just follow the bird noise and walk along the Kurfürstenanlage towards the inner city.
- University campus at Im Neuenheimer Feld, particularly in the north (turn off Berliner Straße and into the street Im Neuenheimer Feld) and south (park at the zoo, see below). The campus is actually one of the best birding spots in Heidelberg (along with the old cemetery, see below), which just goes to show how crappy the city is for birding. You’ll get a decent selection of common garden birds and a few finer ones, e.g. Common Redstart and Fieldfare.
- Heidelberg Zoo to the south-west of Neuenheimer Feld, all over the place but most often at the seals enclosure and the adjacent kiosk. The zoo has a small colony of genuinely wild Grey Herons (watch them compete with the seals for the fish!), and the White Storks are also wild and countable despite breeding at the zoo.
- Along the Neckarwiesen, a park dominated by meadows along the northern shore of the river Neckar. The local flock of geese (mostly Pink-footed, Swan Goose) is not “countable” while the Egyptian Geese and Ruddy Shelducks that occasionally turn up are.
- The old cemetery next to the tram station S-Bahnhof Südstadt/Weststadt, one of Heidelberg’s best birding destinations if that is your thing.
- Throughout Südstadt and Rohrbach in lower numbers, but frequently e.g. in Rohrbach south of Freiburger Straße.
Mannheim / Ludwigshafen and surroundings
- Main roost is the triangular parking lot at Leopoldstraße in Ludwigshafen, with around 850 birds. It used to be the parking area at the BASF plant, intersection Brunckstraße and Rottstückerweg.
- Luisenpark Mannheim is a very good place for them. That’s all the info I have got about Mannheim / Ludwigshafen, but they are common there throughout.
- Schloßpark Schwetzingen (“palace gardens of Schwetzingen”) in Schwetzingen – obviously – are a very good area, and also good for woodpeckers and generally common park/garden birds. Yes, the Egyptian Geese there are countable.
- Schloßpark Neckarhausen (“palace gardens of Neckarhausen”) with a few birds, but the gardens are small, so one shouldn’t miss them.
I am fully aware that Europe is faaaaaamed world-wide for its abundance of flashy, colourful birds with fancy tails and astounding plumage, and that a visitor from areas with a much more bland avifauna (like …say… North America, SE Asia, Costa Rica, Africa, and so on) might have difficulties picking out the parakeet from our native birds. I have therefore added a few pictures to the post, to make sure you’ll know what features to concentrate on when trying to identify the parakeets amongst the Dunnocks, House Sparrows and Treecreepers.
Heidelberg university campus, Niger, Rajasthan – they’re all the same!
The rose ring of the Rose-ringed.
And the black chin.
The sycamores in front of Heidelberg central railway station are currently the main roost for Rose-ringed Parakeets in the Heidelberg area, and the location where the following images were taken at dawn
Please note that the white reflection in the birds’ eyes is not caused by the camera’s build-in flash. Rather, it originates from the white-hot evil fire that is the soul of an invasive, alien species hell-bent on destruction and mayhem.
We love them anyway.