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Where to Find Wildlife in Towns and Cities
At first glance towns and cities may appear to be nothing but an expanse of concrete, bricks and metal and not at all wildlife friendly. But in fact many species of animals, birds and wild plant have been able to find suitable homes within towns and cities. For many animals towns can offer shelter as well as a constant supply of easily obtained foods and even the smallest green space or garden can he home to or visited by a vast variety of insects, birds, small mammals and plants.
Foxes have been able to live very successfully in and around towns due to the fact that they are able to eat almost any food. This enables them to make good use of the large amount of food that is thrown away by humans every day. Foxes can find food in large commercial waste bins, street and home dustbins or can eat what people have dropped and left behind. As foxes mainly come out at night towns and cities provide lots of places for foxes to stay safe during the day. In the winter months you may be able to hear foxes communicating as the mating season approaches. Listen out for their barks and screams at night. The most likely time to see a fox out and about is in the late evening or early morning before there are many people around.
Many people dislike urban foxes and feel that they create a nuisance and mess in searching through the bins. Foxes have also been known to kill and eat pets such as chickens, ducks or rabbits which also contribute to this negative view of them. They do not do these things to annoy or upset us; they are only trying to survive. The expansion of our towns and cities means that there is less countryside for foxes and other wild creatures to inhabit and so they are forced to find new ways and places to live.
Pigeons are a bird that most people are familiar with in, even the busiest cities. Originally wild pigeons lived on cliffs and mountain ledges but have been able to adapt and find suitable homes on building ledges, roofs and even under bridges. They are expert scavengers and like foxes, will eat almost any food. It is not uncommon to see single pigeons and groups hanging around people hopeful for some dropped or shared crumbs. In some places they have become quite tame as they have grown used to living among humans. You may even be able to feed the birds by hand. These birds can be found in pretty much any park or green space as well as in town and city centres. It is often the case that when you drop a few crumbs for one, many more will appear as if from nowhere.
In areas where there a large amounts of pigeons they can create problems with the amount of droppings that they leave on buildings, paths and other areas. This has led to them gaining quite a negative reputation with some people.
In some towns it may be possible to see wild rabbits, especially if there is any woodland or other open areas nearby. Rabbits have an excellent sense of smell and hearing as well as very good eyesight. This can make them hard to spot as they are able to pick up on even the smallest sound or movement and quickly run to safety. They tend not to stray far from the safety of their underground homes, known as warrens. You may be lucky and see rabbits when driving through countryside or less built up areas. They are also commonly found near farmers’ fields as these can provide a rich source of food. Look out for the tunnel entrances to their warrens or dropping while out walking in woodland or countryside.
The frog you are mostly likely to find in urban areas is the common frog. They can often be found in garden ponds as well as the larger lakes, ponds and waterways in many towns and cities. Adult frogs can been seen in and out of water and are considered to be a great help to gardeners as they eat many problem bugs. These include slugs, snails, beetles and caterpillars. Frogs hibernate through the cold winter before returning in the spring. At this time you may hear frogs croaking in their search for a mate or find their jelly like eggs known as frogspawn. After a few weeks the tadpoles will emerge and begin their journey to becoming frogs.
Commonly seen in and around town and city parks and waterways, the mallard duck has made a great success of urban living. Male mallard ducks are easily recognised with their shiny green heads and black tail feathers. The females are brown which enables them to hide well in undergrowth and bushes, keeping their eggs or hatched ducklings safe. Town dwelling mallard ducks eat a variety of food including leaves and shoots, aquatic insects and small fish but will be just as happy with some bread or grain dropped by humans. Look out for these ducks on park ponds as well as canals and rivers.
The slow worm is often mistaken for a snake but is in fact a type of legless lizard. They are experts at squeezing into small spaces and through gaps in order to stay safe or find food. They can be found in undisturbed areas of parks and gardens but are very shy and are rarely seen during the day. On a sunny day you may find a slow worm underneath stones or metal sheeting as they are able to absorb the warmth. Slow worms hibernate through winter until March and enjoy eating slugs. If you have a compost heap in your garden, you mat found a slow worm or two as the heap provides them with warmth and shelter and is often home to other creatures that they can eat. Slow worms have many predators such as cats, rats and birds of prey and are able to break off the ends of their tails in order to escape. This is harmless to the slow worm and will regrow.
Pipistrelle bats are the smallest and most common bat found in Britain. These tiny bats can weigh as little as 5g and have a wingspan of around 20cm. They can often be seen as it starts to get dark in parks and gardens. Bats have poor eyesight but use sound waves in order to find their way around or find food. Their main source of food is small flying insects such as moths, midges and flies. Bats have adapted to living in towns and cities and can nest in even the smallest gaps and crevices of houses and other buildings. They can also be found hibernating in unused lofts or empty buildings over the winter months. The pipistrelle bat is protected by law so it is illegal to harm them or disturb their nesting sites.
© 2014 Claire