Researchers believe the birds were introduced through "repeated releases and introductions"

By Claudia Harmata
December 12, 2019 03:53 PM
Getty; Monitor Picture Library/Photoshot/Getty

Scientists have debunked the theory that legendary rock star Jimi Hendrix introduced parakeets to the United Kingdom.

The brightly colored birds, originally from Africa, have been an invasive species in the U.K. for years. Some have theorized that they first arrived when Hendrix released a pair on Carnaby Street in London during the 1960s, according to the new study, published in the Journal of Zoology and reported on by the BBC.

Others claimed that the animals were first introduced when some escaped from the set of the 1951 film The African Queen.

However, researchers recently used geographic profiling, a technique primarily used to find crime suspects, to analyze parakeet sightings throughout the U.K.

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Their findings showed that there was no evidence to support the Hendrix myth.

“We show that, despite the undoubted appeal of the different hypotheses concerning their origin, spatial analysis provides no support for any of them, leading us to conclude that the birds’ establishment in Britain is more likely to be a consequence of repeated releases and introductions, a view supported by a detailed search of the British Newspaper Archive,” the study read.

Through the newspaper archive, researchers found numerous headlines and accounts about deaths and a “parrot disease scare” in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1950s. They even found a sighting as far back as 1855, in Norfolk.

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Experts suspect that during the several “parrot flu” scares, many people who were keeping parrots as pets may have released them in order to avoid the disease. In addition to this, they found documentation of “accidental” releases.

“As well as disease scares, numerous accounts of accidental escapes have been documented across the country,” the study added. “Including the escape of 140 ‘foreign caged birds’ during a gale in Monmouthshire, Wales.”

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Researchers explained that “the most plausible of the stories of the parakeets’ origins in the UK” is when numerous birds escaped from aviaries that were damaged in the Great Storm of 1987.

“The number of records jumps from 10 in 1987 to 100 in 1988, and it is certainly possible that birds that escaped in this way began to breed,” they wrote. “In our view, though, these would have been in addition to other birds that had already been released — accidentally or on purpose — rather than the sole source of the current population.”

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