Green bird with red stripe on head
Bird Weekly,  Birds,  London,  Travel galleries

Gallery: discovering birdlife in Bushy Park

London’s eight Royal Parks comprise areas of land that was originally owned by the monarchy and used by them for recreation, mostly hunting. Today the parks are all freely open to the public and are one of the delights of London.

Bushy Park is one of them, less famous perhaps than its city centre cousins such as Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, but with lots to offer those who visit. It was once the deer-hunting ground of Henry VIII; of course, nowadays its herds of red and fallow deer are protected and are one of its main attractions.

But as we discovered on a recent outing, there is plenty of birdlife too. Most of the following birds we encountered on a walk through the Woodland Garden; but on the open grassland near the deer we found a noisy pair of Green Woodpeckers.

Two green birds with red stripe on head
Green Woodpeckers

Lots of ducks were out enjoying the spring sunshine on the stream running through the Woodland Garden, including a pair of my favourite Mandarin Ducks. This beautiful duck was introduced from the Far East, and escaped, or was deliberately released, from captivity in the UK during the 20th century.

Colourful duck and grey partner
Mr and Mrs Mandarin Duck
Colourful duck reflected in pond
Don’t I look handsome!

There were Coots and Moorhens …

Small black duck with white beak
Brown duck with red beak at edge of pond

… and of course Mallards.

Green headed duck with yellow bill

Canada Geese are pretty common on all London’s waterways. They were introduced from North America and have successfully spread to cover most of the UK.

Large goose with dark head and neck
Canada Goose

And Egyptian Geese are becoming more prevalent too. Like the Mandarin Ducks, they were introduced as an ornamental wildfowl species; they later escaped into the wild, where they are now successfully breeding.

Large goose drinking
Egyptian Goose

The combination of tan and green in their wing and tail feathers is especially striking.

Close up of green and tan coloured feathers
Egyptian Goose feathers

Another relatively recent addition to our bird life are the flocks of Ring-necked Parakeets. These probably descend from some escaped pets during the mid to late 20th century; however, more exotic theories have emerged including:

  • A pair escaped from Isleworth Studios during filming of The African Queen in 1951
  • Some escaped from damaged aviaries during the Great Storm of 1987
  • A pair were released by Jimi Hendrix in Carnaby Street, London, in the 1960s
  • A number reportedly escaped from a pet shop in Sunbury-on-Thames in 1970

Whatever their origin they have become naturalised in the south-east of England, aided by warmer winters; and nowadays we see more of them than we do of several native species. I love their bright flashes of green and the hint of the exotic they bring to our suburban neighbourhood, although it’s a shame if they are driving away other birds.

Green parakeet in a tree
Ring-necked Parakeet
Green parakeet in a tree
Ring-necked Parakeet

However Bushy Park still seems to have plenty of room to accommodate all the birds that have found a home here. Our recent spring visit certainly enabled me to take lots of photos to share for Lisa’s Bird Weekly challenge, all of them seen within the past two weeks!

Bushy Park is local to us; these photos were all taken in late March 2021


  • rosalieann37

    No – Mallards are native to the US and are invasive in England – they are pushing out the native English duck which is the ruddy duck (perhaps an unfortunate name for England – at least according to Gilbert and Sullivan). I know that because we were on a narrowboat and one got caught in between the boat and the dock because people were feeding them in the canal. The manager of the pub came down and accused us of killing an endangered duck. But they are not endangered and they are not native.

  • rosalieann37

    At the beginning of your piece I wondered about where the park got its name. Is it filled with bushes, or is it named for someone?

    Then as a read farther I was intrigued by photos of birds (green woodpeckers) that were not familiar to me and saddened to see so many invasive species- Mallards and Canadian geese are invasives in England that I am familiar with. The Canada geese have pushed their way down into the US and some stay here year round, eating our aquatic grasses and pooping everywhere. Ring neck pheasants and Mandarin ducks of course from the Orient.

    We also have ring neck pheasants, but we also have a bunch of invasives brought from England (like mute swans) so I guess turn about is fair play 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Good guess Rosalie (and maybe I should have said) – the park gets its name from the many hawthorn bushes that used to be found here. I don’t think of Mallards as invasives here – they’re our most common duck and I believe natives. Maybe they’re invasive in the US??? But the Canada and Egyptian Geese definitely are, as are the Mandarin Ducks, but the latter are so gorgeous I’m happy to have them.

      These are Ring-necked Parakeets, not pheasants. I wouldn’t expect to see pheasants here but Common Pheasants are, as the name suggests, seen a lot in our countryside and have been here for centuries. There may be some more exotic invasive pheasant species I guess, and these parakeets are definitely invasive – originally from the tropics in Africa and India I think (we saw some at the Taj Mahal!!)

  • margaret21

    Bushey Park is a London park I don’t know at all. But London still does pretty well in the parks department, doesn’t it? Despite all the cutbacks they’re pretty well maintained.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      It’s further out so mainly only visited by locals, even though it’s just across the road (literally) from Hampton Court 🙂 The Royal Parks don’t seem to be affected by cutbacks the way council-run ones are!

  • Lisa Coleman

    Fabulous birds this week! The Mandarin Duck photos are my favorite and would be a life bird for me. The Canada Geese have come to Florida and never left. They are procreating as we speak. LOL! The Green Woodpecker, Ring-necked Parakeet and Egyptian Goose are all life birds as well. Great shots! 🙂

  • bitaboutbritain

    At the risk of being repetitive, those photographs are wonderful. I simply CANNOT take decent shots of wildlife. You’re right about the Royal Parks – Londoners have a fabulous amount of open space to explore. I’ve not yet made it to Bushy Park, but have heard that it’s super. And, in another life, there was a green woodpecker that used to regularly feed in the garden.

  • Rose Vettleson

    Those Mandarin Ducks are such intricately gorgeous creatures. And as other commenters mentioned, how do you get such awesome shots? I’ve had some big flocks of dark-eyed juncos in my yard, and I’ve tried multiple times to get the entire flock, or even a good image of just one bird – but they fly away as soon as focused on.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Yes, I love the Mandarin Ducks 🙂 But I’m starting to get embarrassed about all the compliments about the shots – these birds weren’t going anywhere, they are so used to people and wouldn’t be spooked unless you did something silly like shout at them or throw things!!

  • maristravels

    I agree with the former comment. You must have an especially quiet way of approaching the birds to get such great pictures. Great to see Bushy Park mentioned as well, so often people think of it only as a stop on the tube.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Mari but there was no need with these birds to be quiet or careful, except maybe the woodpeckers – I had my zoom on full for them! The others are all used to people picnicking in and around the Woodland Gardens and are more likely to come close to you in the hope of food than fly away 😆 But I think you must be thinking of a different park as Bushy Park is a bit too far out to be on the Tube.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Well these were mostly ducks so no such great flyers. And they are very used to people. There were a number of families picnicking near the stream and the birds were coming pretty close to grab any left-overs 🙂

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