Legend claims the birds were released by Jimi Hendrix or Humphrey Bogart
Others claim a plane crash or burglars in George Michael's home released them
New study disproves these theories and says it was likely due to many low-profile releases of unwanted pet parakeets over decades
PUBLISHED: 00:01, 12 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:21, 12 December 2019
Urban legend has a range of outlandish theories for the origin of Britain's parakeets, including Jimi Hendrix, Humphrey Bogart and George Michael.
But their true origin in the UK has nothing to do with such glamorous celebrity myths, according to new research, which reveals sightings of the birds actually date back to the 1800s.
It has been claimed that Jimi Hendrix released the first pair of parakeets, called Adam and Eve, as a symbol of peace when he was stoned in London's Carnaby Street in 1968. A rival theory maintains that the birds escaped from the set of The African Queen, the film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, in 1951.
But a study, published today in the Journal of Zoology, reveals the birds were reported in Britain as far back as 1855, when one was seen in Norfolk.
The data was drawn from the plotting of parakeet sightings between 1968 and 2014, resulted in 5,072 points across the country. Researchers also looked at newspaper archives from 1800 onwards but did not find any news reports on parakeets being released by Hendrix or The African Queen
The researchers now believe parakeet numbers may have been boosted by escapes from British bird houses damaged in the Great Storm of 1987.
Experts also suspect many parakeets kept as pets were released en masse after an outbreak of 'parrot fever' in 1929, 1930 and 1952, as newspaper articles urged the public to stay away from the 'dangerous birds'.
Sarah Cox of Goldsmiths, University of London, says pet owners would have found it less distressing to simply set their bird free from a window than have it destroyed.
Ring-necked parakeets are an exotic bird native to Asia which now terrorise many UK neighbourhoods.
Despite originating in warmer climes, they have adapted well to British weather and actually thrive in cities such as London.