The Green Green Birds Of Home

One of the things I loved seeing in my bit of London was the flocks of green parakeets who had made themselves at home in local parks. They were a weird splash of exotic colour which had made itself at home. Their screaming and screeching felt appropriate to the city’s abrasiveness and I’d watch them squabble in the trees near one of the playgrounds as winter drew in.

I saw them again the other day on a visit to Kew Gardens – that’s where the picture above is from – and it made me wonder whether I would find them an exciting oddity if I encountered them in a game set in a city or whether they would stick out too much, sending the game into some magical realist or dreamlike territory.

There are several competing explanations for how non-native parakeets came to make themselves at home in the UK, so there isn’t a consensus you can point to when pondering an explanation for the birds. Nothing canon. They just /are/. They flock to trees, screaming and flapping. Leaves fall as they sidle along branches, picking around for ripening nuts. Sometimes you’ll hear the whoosh of foliage and feather as they do that parroty clambering to get to a lower branch which is a combination of grabbing and falling.

But if they had come up in a game – say, if a flock of parrots suddenly appeared in an otherwise faithful recreation of a British city – what might that do?

I’d hope they would still be a curio that made me smile, so long as the developer or animator made them seem totally at home. But would a community then go nuts, trying to work out the parrot ARG? I mean, I assume that’s what would happen if this game I’m imagining was by Blizzard.

For a meticulously researched game it might stick out, prompting questions about the studio’s competence, and thus leading to many an explanatory article about London’s parakeets and their attendant mystery.

Maybe they would be a clue or a motif like the cardinal bird you see in Virginia. Green birds to signify hidden routes or particular terrain.

Perhaps they would end up with their own cult following. Little subreddits and maybe the odd bit of game-reference jewellery on Etsy.

I think I would be more inclined to search for meaning in them if this was a game because of the obvious reason that games are created by humans and everything that’s present is present because of a choice a person made. I’d look for meaning because there would necessarily be one, even if it was “I like parrots” or “We made a game about London and London has parrots”. When they show up in the park I get to step away from the “Why?” and just enjoy them being near.

I don’t have a larger point with this, but sometimes I want to use these supporter posts to write down thoughts before they slip away.

This article was originally written for the RPS Supporter Program.


  1. Mungrul says:

    I recently moved to Thamesmead and they’re everywhere down there. It’s hard to spot the buggers when they’re in trees as they have almost perfect camouflage, but I love having them around. Probably play havoc with the native wildlife mind you, like pretty, green, flying cane toads.

    As for games where this kind of incongruity occurs, I always liked the giraffe bit in The Last of Us. I only played the game once, but I shared Joel and Ellie’s wonder at seeing these graceful creatures in an unexpected place.

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    Spottswoode says:

    Many years ago my friends ago had a day free from lectures and chose to spend it drinking in Richmond Park. Not being from the area (or London in general) we had never heard of the London parrots, so when someone claimed he had seen a parrot, we thought he was making it up. He insisted it had been there and tried to point it out, but trying to spot a green parrot sitting in a green tree, while drunk, is not easy…

    We eventually saw two of them later as we left, but as we wrongly assumed that South London was not a natural place to find parrots, we were convinced we were somehow mistaken, and spent the walk home bickering about what we’d really seen. It was only a long time later whilst watching a documentary about London wildlife that I found out the truth.

    I’m glad they’re real though. London is a more interesting place for them, and I hope that other people who don’t know about them have experienced the same happy confusion that we did that day.

    • Mungrul says:

      Yeah, it’s quite fun coming across someone who wasn’t expecting parrots. I was on my way to the station one day when a pandemonium of parrots flew overhead, and the lady in front of me stopped to gawk in unabashed delight.
      I simply smiled and confirmed “Yup. Parrots.”

  3. caff says:

    Pip, I wish you’d make these ideas into games.

    Well, I bet we all wish we could make our ideas into games.

  4. Captain Narol says:

    Expect more new species to settle in England during the next decades… The Brexit won’t stop them !

    The Times, They are A Changing, as Dylan said.

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    particlese says:

    With the exception of Proteus, my favorite game birds are the ones I can hear but not see, and I think Proteus gets a break largely because it’s generally so lo-fi. I can figure out the behavior sets of the game’s birds easily enough (or so I think), but they’re still fun to watch/chase/follow for a good while after. Maybe because the game puts me in a thingwatching mood more than most games, too…

    • Ghostwise says:

      Parakeets have also settled in forests to the South of Paris (and presumably beyond) since the climate is now warm enough for them to survive.

      One atypical-for-the-times winter would likely wipe them out, though.

      • Risingson says:

        Surprisingly they get well with cold temperatures, and they fall down when it’s really hot.

        We had them everywhere in Madrid, but then many other birds whose sound I miss and whose name I never remember in english: “golondrinas”, ” lavanderas”, the lovely noisy “estorninos” and summer companions as “herrerillos”, ” verdecillos”, “verderones” and that night “autillo” that I always confused with a car alarm. I fucking love birds.

      • Landrassa says:

        Amsterdam has them as well. Which leads me to wonder why they like capital cities so much…

        Up next: a game about parakeets secretly infiltrating all the centres of power and taking over the world.

  6. Arglebargle says:

    In Austin, Texas, there are flocks of little multi-colored parrots that have naturalized where the Colorado River flows through Downtown. They survive the occasional harsh winter due to the city/river warmth. They combine with the swans, ducks, wintering cormorants, and intermittent packs of bullying seagulls for an interesting spectacle for folks traversing the hike and bike trails along the water’s edge.

    Years ago, a little, brilliantly colored parrot showing up in a tree in front of our house, about five miles north of the downtown. We pointed out the direction of the river, and wished it luck in finding a friendly flock. Hope it made it safely.

    link to

  7. thekelvingreen says:

    We have them in Brighton too.

    My favourite story about their origins is that a drunken Jimi Hendrix released a breeding pair in Carnaby Street in the late 60’s.

  8. sinbad says:

    I live on a rough housing estate in Withington, just outside the city centre of Manchester, and we have flocks of them here too. Seeing them always cheers me up

  9. DEspresso says:

    Also in Bonn <3

  10. Kala says:

    I haven’t seen them in the UK yet (though I know they’re here) but I did see a tree full of them in Spain years ago which made me go whoaaa…

    (as did a violet carpenter bee. though huh “In 2006 Xylocopa violacea was reported from Cardigan, Wales. In 2007 it was found breeding for the first time in England, in Leicestershire. This follows a northwards expansion of its range in France, Germany, and the Channel Islands.” we might be seeing giant blue bees soon, too, then ;p)

    link to

    I for one welcome our new bee overlords.

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      Philippa Warr says:

      Oh wow! I was reading about those the other day and kind of assumed I wouldn’t get a chance to see them without a lot of travel.

  11. anandus says:

    There everywhere in the Netherlands too. I’m looking at a few in the tree outside my window. Colourful, but they de make a lot of noise.

  12. Scrand says:

    great article! its true we accept things in reality we would question in a game. interesting.