A short walk through the National Garden, in the heart of Athens, is enough to convince anyone that a whole colony of exotic green parrots has found refuge in the capital of Greece.
The presence of the impressive, and slightly “noisy”, parrots is very intense all around Athens’ green parks, as they fly from tree to tree and make passers-by wonder how it is possible that exotic parrots – that we are used to seeing in documentaries for jungles and rainforests – live in the centre of Athens.
According to a research by the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS), more than 1,500 parrots live in Athens at the moment, and have conquered almost all the parks of the city and their surrounding areas.
In fact, Athenians reported that they have witnessed the parrots in many places in Athens from Tritsi Park to Pedion of Areos, the park of Evelpidon and the Archaeological Museum in Patision Street, as well as the town of Glyfada and the residential neighbourhood of Goudi.
The HOS reported that the green parrots in Athens are a species that normally lives in the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range in Asia or in tropical forests south of the Sahara desert in Africa.
According to experts, just one pair of these parrots is enough to multiply into an entire colony of parrots on foreign soil, and increase their population very rapidly.
In addition, this species of parrots is known for its preference for hot weather, but it can also withstand the coldest temperatures in Greece.
Specifically, the warm climate of Attica throughout the year is ideal for their survival and reproduction.
This phenomenon however is not observed just in Greece, but also all-around Europe, with many countries facing difficulties in dealing with the large groups of parrots.
According to the European Ornithologists’ Union (EOU), the parrot family had not been seen in Europe for thousands of years, until some rare species invaded European countries as fugitives and have now even established breeding colonies.
“Green parrots have really taken over Europe. Barcelona has a huge problem, as does London, and some governments have decided to exterminate them as they compete with local species and cause many problems,” the EOU explained.
“A big debate has opened up in Europe about whether all these parrots should be killed to favour local species, which have been dramatically reduced.
“Parrots might be beautiful to watch, and we do want to protect them, but they do cause big problems. In Israel for example, there has been severe damage to crops.
“The truth is that these parrots are aggressive and very loud.”
The Ornithological Society in Greece declared however, that there are no indications yet that local species are competing with these parrots in the country.
“Their presence is very strong in Tritsi Park, where we like to organize educational programmes for schools and take students to see those rare birds in person,” said Stelios Pelasgos, head of Environmental Education of the Hellenic Ornithological Society.
“These parrots are indeed very exotic and never existed in our continent.
“At one point a woman from the city of Xanthi called the Ornithological Society and told us that she saw rare green parrots.
“This made a wild impression on her, since she had only seen similar birds in the jungles of Peru, where she used to live before settling in Greece,” Mr. Pelasgos added.
While there are a few urban legends about how this type of birds came to Greece, the prevailing story, which is supported by the HOS, is that the first populations of green parrots appeared in the early 1990s in the city of Glyfada, after they were released from a container that transported parrots to Greece en masse, in order to supply local pet shops.
In the late 1980s, such birds had become popular among households who wanted to buy them as pets, therefore Greece was receiving such exotic animals from various countries.
According to the story, the green parrots were initially transported to Greece from India via airplane.
When the airplane arrived in Athens, the cages where damaged and the birds were in bad condition, therefore the parrots ‘failed’ to pass the customs clearance.
After being treated by local vets, the parrots were released in Athens, creating their first colonies in the southern suburbs.
Others believe that this whole phenomenon was started by individuals who bought the parrots from pet shops, but released them. Or the parrots somehow escaped from their cages, and slowly started reproducing more and more of their kind.
There is no doubt however, that the green parrots from Africa and Asia provide a colourful note to the busy city of Athens and take park visitors by surprise with their loud gurgles and squawks.
Over the last few years, their population has significantly increased, and it seems like they have adapted very well to the Athenian environment, and have managed to survive and make Greece their new home.
All photos from agonaskritis.gr