Monk parakeet

As someone who has written at some length about birds – the herons and curlews of Lincolnshire; the pheasants that go in fear of their lives during the winter months in the Pennine village in which I live – I’ve been very interested in the bird life of Barcelona. Most of the birds here are exactly what you would expect to find in a major city with lots of parks which is also a Mediterranean sea-port. I’ve seen gulls and feral pigeons, sparrows and ducks a-plenty; swifts swirling around the buildings: in other words, the same birds that I should encounter in similar habitats in England at appropriate times of year. I have, however, been amazed that the many palm trees of Barcelona are filled, not with the melodious song of the blackbird and song-thrush, but with the raucous cry of the parakeet. These piratical birds swoop screeching down upon the crusts and pizza-ends discarded by tourists and, despite their inferior size, give the pigeons a fairly vicious dusting down if they try to put up a fight. They’re nothing but semi-tropical thugs, really, but I can’t help feeling a sneaking admiration for them, even so. It’s not just that they live by their wits, but also because they do it in such a brazen way. I suppose that in one sense they have no option: gorgeous in luminous lime green, they can hardly make their livelihoods by stealth. There is something entertaining about the fact that they carry their finds up to a safe branch and, clutching the morsel in one foot, nibble delicately at it like over-dressed and picky diners on the terrasses beneath them.