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Jimmy Hendrix parakeet story just won’t fly

Be free, man:
Jimi Hendrix is
said to have
released a pair
of parakeets in
1960s London

THE story goes that parakeets were introduced to the UK by Jimi Hendrix, who freed a pair of pets on Carnaby Street during the swinging sixties.

Another popular theory has been that the first to settle here escaped from the set of Humphrey Bogart film The African Queen in Ealing in 1951.

Sinking f-Ealing: Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen

Sadly, both are no more than a myth, according to scientists who have mapped decades of wild parakeets on our shores.

Research says sightings of the exotic birds, which are now thriving in large colonies, date back as far as the 1860s.

Steven Le Comber, from Queen Mary University of London, said: ‘The fun legends relating to the origins of the UK’s parakeets are probably not going to go away any time soon.

‘However, our research only found evidence to support the belief of most ornithologists — the spread of parakeets in the UK is likely a consequence of repeated releases and introductions, and nothing to do with publicity stunts by musicians or movie stars.’

A noisy band of parakeets inhabits Kensington Gardens, a short flutter from London’s Carnaby Street. But neither the ’60s fashion hub nor Ealing in west London showed up prominently after 5,000 sightings were charted in a technique originally developed to hunt criminals.

Feathers for all weathers: Parakeets are thriving in Britain

The researchers say dramatic media coverage of parrot fever spreading to humans, from 1929 to ’31 and again in 1952, may have prompted releases.

Study co-author Sarah Elizabeth Cox, of Goldsmiths, University of London, said: ‘It would be much easier to let it out the window than to destroy it.’