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Bird Spotting in Towns and Cities

Updated on April 24, 2017
Birds can make their homes in even the busist spots of cities and towns.
Birds can make their homes in even the busist spots of cities and towns. | Source

A large variety of birds can be seen in flight or going about their daily lives in towns and cities. Some such as the pigeon have adapted well and utilise features of towns and cities that resemble their natural habitats. Many bird species may be attracted to towns and cities due to the readily available supply of food that can be found. This may be food that has been deliberately left out for birds such as garden bird feeders or due to birds being able to scavenge food waste left by humans.

There are a wide variety of birds that can be seen in towns and cities all over Britain. Some of these such as sparrows, sea gulls and robins are common sights in parks, streets and gardens so are well known to many people. However there are many others to be seen including several birds of prey.

Swifts can often be spotted in urban parks on summer days.
Swifts can often be spotted in urban parks on summer days. | Source

Swift

From early May you may be able to spot swifts on their yearly summer visit to Britain. These birds are strictly insectivorous as so once the weather gets colder and insect numbers drop they head off again for warmer climates. Swift nests can be found tucked away in nooks and crannies under the roofs of buildings. The swifts chose these spot as they mimic the swift’s natural nesting sites in caves and cliffs.

It is thought that swifts spend the vast majority of their time in the air and can fly around 500 miles a day in search of insects to eat. They can often be seen playing what appear to be chasing games over open ground.

Pied Wagtail

These small, long tailed birds are more common in rural places but can be attracted to towns and cities by the warmth and titbits of food dropped or left by people. Look out for pied wagtails in gardens and car parks in search of food. As their name implies their long tail can be seen wagging as they hop about.

Pied wagtails like to build their small cup shaped nests in holes they find in walls and buildings. They will also use open fronted nest boxes so adding these to your garden may attract this bird. They feed mainly on insects such as caterpillars and flies.

The sweet little pied wagtail has a loud voice and is a common visitor to British gardens.
The sweet little pied wagtail has a loud voice and is a common visitor to British gardens. | Source

Kestrel

This bird of prey has an amazing ability to hover for long periods while searching for food. The kestrel’s main foods are mice, voles and shrews so they are often seen hovering over busy roads and railway lines searching the grass verges. Kestrels have a long tail and pointed wings.

When living in the countryside, kestrels build their nests in old trees or may use the empty nests of other birds. Urban dwelling kestrel’s nests have been found on city tower blocks and even in large nest boxes.

Look out for kestrels hoovering over motorways, busy roads and railway lines.
Look out for kestrels hoovering over motorways, busy roads and railway lines. | Source

Starling

At first glance these common urban birds appear to be black but close up you can see that they have a glossy sheen with hints of green and purple. On a sunny day their feathers may look as though they shine. Starlings are common on garden lawns, playing fields and in parks and open spaces.

Starlings are fast flyers that also move confidently on the ground. They are often found in groups and can be noisy which can scare away smaller birds at times.

Close up starlings have a glossy black coat with shades of purple and green.
Close up starlings have a glossy black coat with shades of purple and green. | Source

Wren

Wrens may be little birds but they have a big voice and shrill song. These small birds are easily recognisable by their upward pointing tail. Male wrens create several domed nests and then the female will chose which she feels is the best and safest location to lay her eggs.

Wrens make their homes in range of habitats including woodland, farmland, heathland and moorland. They are also common visitors to urban gardens. There are approximately 80 species of wren and most have grey, brown, black or white plumage.

Wrens are a small busy bird with a big voice.
Wrens are a small busy bird with a big voice. | Source

House Sparrow

Male sparrows are easy to spot with their grey heads and black bibs. Sparrows are a great scavenger and this has enabled them to make a great living searching through people’s waste food. They are also common visitors at bird feeders and tables.

Male house sparrows chose the nesting site, often a small gap in roof tiles or bricks and both the male and female build a nest together. Once they hatch, the young birds are fed on a diet of caterpillars and other insects brought by the adult birds.

House sparrows are a comon visitor to urban gardens.
House sparrows are a comon visitor to urban gardens. | Source
Little owls can sometimes been seen perched on tree branches or telegraph poles.
Little owls can sometimes been seen perched on tree branches or telegraph poles. | Source

Little Owl

The little owl was introduced to southern Britain in the 19th century. They quickly spread and can now be found across the United Kingdom. These birds are most active at dawn and dusk and will eat small mammals such as mice, small birds and even earthworms.

Little owls nest in holes found in trees and can occasionally be seen in daylight sitting on tree branches or telegraph poles. Females lay three to four eggs at a time and both parents hunt for food in order to keep up with the chick’s large appetites. Young little owls tend to stay close to home even once they have left the nest.

© 2014 Claire

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