Screw it, here's a map of Paris superimposed on London

Aww, look at the cute little thing. Maps of Paris and London taken from Google Maps.

Paris, as we may have mentioned before, is surprisingly small. It has a population of only 2.3m, which isn't that many for one of the great cities of the world. It's also only six miles across. This is a case of “underbounding”: a situation in which the formal limits of a city are far smaller than its functional area, which

a) creates a whole load of problems for the people who govern a metropolitan area, and

b) stops lovely family cities websites from make any sensible statistical comparisons.


Anyway. Because it's Friday afternoon, we decided to kick back, relax, and super-impose a map of Paris onto London, to give you some sense of exactly how small Paris really is.

We've placed the Île de la Cité, the historic heart of Paris, on London's Trafalgar Square, in an attempt to align the centres of the two cities. You can see the results above.

Imposed on London, the Périphérique ring road, which forms the border of Paris proper in most places, crosses the Thames roughly at the Battersea Bridge and the Rotherhithe tunnel. The city stretches south to the borders of Brixton, and north to those of Holloway. Its westernmost outpost is around Wormwood scrubs; its east is at Greenwich. Montmatre sits above Camden Town.

So, yes, Paris is small – smaller than inner London, and not much bigger than its old rival’s central business district.

Except, this isn't really the whole of Paris, is it? It's the official city limits, yes. But any sensible definition would include the suburbs lying beyond the Périphérique, that are economically dependent on the city itself.

The French government has, belatedly, realised this, and from next year there will be a whole new body: the Metropole du Grand Paris, which will cover the whole urban region. At time of writing the exact boundaries that will have are a bit hazy – so, we've used this map to super impose the city's entire urban area on the London region too. (The red patch at the centre is the city proper.)

That looks much more like it – suddenly, London is all but invisible.  Greater Paris will actually be bigger than Greater London, once the deed is done.

That will help to reintegrate the banlieues and, hopefully, make the city work better.

So there we have it. Join us next week on CityMetric when we'll be firing up our trusty copy of Microsoft Paint once again and asking: Who would win in a fight – the Incredible Hulk or Superman?

 
 
 
 

Where did London’s parakeets come from?

Parakeets in the skies above Wormwood Scrubs, west London. Image: Getty.

Visitors to London’s many green spaces would have to be stubbornly looking at their feet to not see one of the UK’s most exotic birds.  Dubbed “posh pigeons” by unimaginative Londoners, these brilliant green parakeets stand out among the fauna of Northern Europe’s mostly grey cities.

‘Parakeets’ is actually an umbrella term referring to the multiple species, which can now be found in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and various German cities. By far the most common is the Indian ring-necked parakeet, easily recognisable by the stylish red ring around their neck, a matching red beak and, of course, the loud squawking.

In the last 50 years these migrants from South Asia have arrived and thrived, settling into their own ecological niche. In the UK, London is a particular stronghold, but although they may have originally settled in the leafy streets of Twickenham, the birds can now be found in cities as far north as Glasgow.

The story of how they ended up in London is a matter of some discussion and plenty of myth. One often reported theory is that the capitals’ current population are the descendants of birds that escaped from Shepperton Studios during filming of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Others would tell you that they escaped from Syon Park in the early 1970s, when a piece of debris from a passing plane damaged the aviary and allowed them to escape. This chimes with their original concentration in South West London.
My favourite story by far is that they were released by Jimi Hendrix on Carnaby Street in the late 60s. Bored of London’s grey skyline, he set the little fellas free to liven up the place.

However they got here, from 1970 onwards their numbers boomed. In 1992, 700 birds were recorded in London Bird Report. By 1998, 2,845 were seen in the London Area, and by 2006 the ring-neck parakeet was 15th most sighted bird in London.


Darwin would be proud at how well they adapted to the new environment. Toughened up by the hard Himalayan climate, they handle the cold northern European winters better than most locals. Global warming is often brought up in discussions of the parakeets, but it is certainly only part of the story.
It helps, too, that the birds have a 35 year lifespan and few local predators, enabling them to breed freely.

As with any new species, the debate has raged about whether they are harmful to the ecosystem. Strangely reminiscent of the debate over human migrants, often the birds have often been accused of stealing the homes of the natives. The parakeets do nest in tree cavities also used by jackdaws, owls and woodpeckers – but there is little evidence that native species are being muscled out. 

The also provide a food source for Britain's embattled birds of prey. Owls and peregrine falcons have been know to eat them. Charlie and Tom, two city dwelling falcons monitored by Nathalie Mahieu, often bring back parakeets as food.
Of more concern is the new arrivals’ effect on plants and trees. By 2009 their numbers in the UK had grown so much that they were added to the “general licence” of species, which can be killed without individual permission if they are causing damage.

And Parrotnet, am EU funded research project studying the development of parakeet populations across Europe, has warned of the risk they pose to agriculture. In their native India, the parakeets are known to cause widespread damage to crops. As agriculture develops in the UK in line with warmer climates, crops such as maize, grapes and sunflower will become more popular. In India the birds have been documented as reducing maize crops by 81 per cent.

So the parakeets remain divisive. Environmentalist Tony Juniper has disparagingly described them as “the grey squirrel of the skies”. By contrast, the University of York biologist Chris D. Thomas has argued that the parakeets should be left free to move and breed. He sees those wary of the parakeet boom of “irrational persecution” of the bird.

For good or ill the parakeets are here to stay. As so often with migrants of all kinds, there has been some unease about the impact they have had – but the birds, popular amongst Londoners, certainly add colour to the city. Thriving in the urban environment thousands of miles from their natural habitat, they are a metropolitan bird for Europe’s metropolitan cities. 

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook