Jimi Hendrix is well known for being a guitar wizard capable of doing things on the instrument that others could only dream of. There are few people who are as acclaimed as Hendrix in the world of music, and he’ll forever be remembered as a pioneering figure to change the landscape of popular culture. Another accolade handed to Hendrix, however, is being responsible for the parakeet invasion of Britain.
Hendrix made his grand arrival as the counterculture saviour when he touched down on the cobbled streets of little old England in 1966, but it wasn’t just the music scene that he was hailed as saving. The nation was not ready to experience the wild brand of spiralling, kaleidoscopic musical wonder that this young American was about to unleash on the British public. His first appearance on English shores saw him shake up the system and immediately win over the country’s guitar royalty, Eric Clapton, who watched on as Hendrix dethroned him before his very eyes.
Carnaby Street would be the location for another one of Hendrix’s infamous stunts, a time when he unleashed two parakeets into the wild during the swinging sixties. Parakeets are a bird that isn’t traditionally cut out for the British climate, but decades after Hendrix’s antics, they are now common on these shores. If you go for a walk through parks across London, then there’s a sizeable chance that your eyes will feast upon a flock of them.
Their population in the UK is concentrated across London and the South East. The ring-necked parakeet’s native range is tropical climates, mainly in West Africa, India and the Himalayas. Their preferred climate begs the question of how they ended up in London, and Jimi Hendrix was deemed the guilty party for decades.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) website claims that the bird started to become a fixture in British wildlife throughout the ’70s after captive birds escaped or were released. The timing of the bird’s growth in Britain and the geographical location where they exist only adds gravitas to the theory that Hendrix is the reason for their prominence.
CoventryLive previously dug into the subject after a citizen spotted a parakeet in the city earlier this year. The RSPB declined to comment on their request, saying, “We simply don’t have the evidence”.
The publication then reached out to Hendrix’s sister, Janie Hendrix, who remarkably was more than happy to discuss the newspaper’s theory. She told them: “It is true that Jimi had quite a mischievous sense of humour, and he was, in fact, a free spirit himself, but did he set free a pair of ring-necked parakeets in London? If he were alive today, I think he would say, ‘You can’t believe everything you see and hear, can you?'”
The Hendrix theory was somewhat squashed in 2019, however, when Goldsmiths, UCL, and Queen Mary universities joined forces for a study that concluded the parakeets’ first wild sightings was back in the 1860s. In 1932, the Middlesex County Times reported parakeets had been spotted in Epping Forest, with the paper blaming the “parrot disease scare” of 1931 for people letting their caged birds escape into the wild.
While it would have been nice for Hendrix to be the reason for London’s exotic wildlife, the truth is sadly a little more complicated. The rumoured parrot disease worried Britons who let their animal escape, and slowly they started to breed, which is why there is such a strong contingent across the South East today.