Traditionally associated with the world’s more tropical climes, Amsterdam’s parakeets now flourish in the canal city’s rooftops and parks. No, you’re not tripping (yet…), I said parakeets. You know, “parrots.” The kind that sit on pirates’ shoulders.
With their beauty, intelligence and ability to mimic human speech, humans adore parakeets, anointing them one of the most popular avian pets in the world. In fact, their popularity as pets dates back thousands of years to the ancient Greeks, who kept certain parakeets as pets. Although many owners love and cherish their parakeets, others have found their way to freedom. Or endeavored their own damn way to freedom. This is certainly the case in Amsterdam, where a huge feral population now runs rampant.
A history of Amsterdam’s parakeets
In Amsterdam, parakeets began their Great Escape in the 1970s. There are several theories about their establishment, including that:
- someone intentionally released a breeding pair in massive Vondelpark,
- a truck carrying parakeets turned over, releasing the birds from their cages,
- and that an American company relocating to the area accidentally released dozens of birds. [Ed. Why?!?]
Instead of suffering from the urban environment, however, parakeets grew accustomed to easy city living. In fact, they now number some 4,000. Parakeets of Amsterdam have proven adaptable and audacious. They survive by eating fruits from Amsterdam’s gardens and seed from bird feeders.
Where to find the famous parakeets of Amsterdam
Looking to spot these incongruous avians for yourself? Today, Amsterdam’s parakeets live, eat and breed all over the city. (Utrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam also boast their own feral-keet populations.) Sightings abound in the city’s parks, including Vondelpark and Oosterpark. Like most birds, Amsterdam’s parakeets tend to roost off the ground. That means you’ll find them living in trees. Good news: Big, leafy trees proliferate in Amsterdam’s soggy ecosystem. Parakeets have grown accustomed to living among humans, roosting atop the city’s buildings. It’s not uncommon to be sitting in a cafe and see a parakeet fly by. I suppose this is where lesser travel writers might insert a drug-hallucination quip. But not me!
Lastly, when one hopes to spot birds, remember to look up.
Should they stay or should they go now?
As with any feral population, parakeets have their supporters and detractors. Some people enjoy the cheerful sounds and brights colors of the parrots in Amsterdam. Others say the birds are a nuisance, calling for the city to enact some form of population control. According to DutchNews.nl, the parrots in Amsterdam are considered one of the 10 worst feral species in the world.
Those in favor of eradication say that the birds eat fruit growing in orchards and private gardens around the city. Furthermore, they compete with native species for living and nesting space, which in turn affects the population size of those birds. Luckily, some middle ground exists between the two sides of the parakeet conflict. Instead of letting the population run rampant or resort to wholesale killing off the birds, researchers are looking to contain or remove the parakeets using humane methods.
Whether people like them or want them out, the parakeets are now an inextricable part of Amsterdam’s urban identity. Some say that within years, if the bird population is not destroyed, it will become as ordinary to the city as native birds. Or pigeons are to NYC. But even if the parakeets in Amsterdam are removed, their populations elsewhere in Europe remain strong and aren’t showing signs of decline anytime soon.
My free newsletter will help you skip crowds and experience Europe's rich culture like a savvy local. Sign up today and receive two free books: 10 Perfect Days in Paris and Paris for €10.
Smarter European travel is just a click away.