Are you looking to find out more about urban birdwatching? When people first start birding, they often assume that it will mean spending all day outside in nature and being far removed from other people. However, this is not the case, and you do not need to leave your town or city in order to see some beautiful and rare birds.
The urban birdwatcher is no different to any other birder, and it takes the same patience and skills needed to see these birds in urban areas as it does in rural settings. However, one major advantage of urban birdwatching is that you can get incredibly close to certain species as they become used to being surrounded by humans.
For those individuals who know what they are looking for, it’s possible to see some incredible species from the moment you step out of your home.
Is urban birdwatching possible?
Absolutely! Although built-up urban areas are vastly different spaces compared to open fields and natural habitats, you will be amazed at the variety of urban birds on offer. The urban birdwatcher will need to approach things differently from what they might be used to and open their mind slightly to adapt to the diverse situations of the city; however, once you do this, you will find the differences are not that big.
A very common misconception of urban birdwatching is that you are limited to the species and number of birds that you will be able to see. However, this is not true. Of the 600 different varieties of birds that live in Britain, around 550 of them have been spotted in urban areas and cities.
See also: Bird watching in London
Who is urban birdwatching for?
Beginners are often put off by urban birdwatching as they believe that it requires far more in-depth knowledge and awareness in order to see the most interesting birds. This is another misconception, though, and David Lindo (AKA The Urban Birder) believes it is something that everyone can enjoy no matter where they live.
The prominent birder from North West London has been watching birds since he was just three years old. Not able to get out into the countryside as often as he liked when he was younger, David began mapping out the various different species in his neighbourhood. Fast forward to the early 2000s, and he was appearing on the BBC’s Springwatch, showcasing how easy it is to begin urban birdwatching.
See also: How to start birdwatching
How to do birdwatching in the city
Urban birdwatching can be done almost any time that you leave your home. From sitting in the local coffee shop to commuting to work, keeping your eyes towards the sky and the trees will unveil an array of incredible urban birds.
Although it is incredibly accessible, if you have never tried to become an urban birdwatcher before, it can be tough to know where to start. That is why we have put together some of our top tips to help you:
- Think like a bird
When it comes to urban birdwatching, one of the most important tips to always keep in mind is to think like a bird. Urban environments can be incredibly sprawling and vibrant places, but the hustle and bustle can often be overwhelming, and it can be hard to see anything other than a busy city.
That is why you should try to think like a bird. Now, of course, this does not mean you need to be looking for a worm to eat, but try to view the city from a bird’s perspective – the green parks, the trees which could become a home, and the buildings which they can perch on.
Just because you are in the city, the bird will still see trees and bramble patches in the same way. This will give them the food, shelter and habitat that they need to thrive; it just might be a smaller area than in rural spaces.
- Expect the unexpected
Another top tip for urban birdwatching is to expect any species to turn up at any time! The urban birdwatcher will be able to see a huge variety of birds on a day-to-day basis, so keeping your eyes and mind open will prevent you from becoming blinded by only looking for certain types
- Re-evaluate the familiar
Sometimes, focusing on re-evaluating with the familiar and common species found in urban environments, such as a feral pigeon (decendant from Rock Doves), can be incredibly rewarding. While they might be seen as a dirty bird, feral pigeons played a vital role in the Second World War, and they have even been known to learn the London Underground!
- Learn your local birding patches
Bird patching is the term used to describe the area frequented by birdwatchers. People are often chasing the rarest species, but the way to ensure you catch them is usually to focus on the common ones first, and you will see the unusual begin to appear!
Having a local patch is your chance to get to understand what types of birds frequent your city. You do not always need to go to large parks. Garden bird photography is a great way to easily see the species near your home.
- Be regular
Of course, the only way to ensure that you can see the rarest birds is to make sure that you are visiting your birding patches regularly. The more frequently you go, the more you will understand how the population grows and changes throughout the year and when the best time to see certain species will be.
- Head to the airport
Birding patches come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the best things about urban birdwatching is that it lets you experience settings away from tradition. The local airport is always a great choice, as the scrubland surrounding it and large buildings make the perfect shelter for a whole variety of birds.
- Find a local group
Urban birdwatching is an incredibly popular pastime, and it is continuing to welcome more and more individuals of all ages. That means that alongside being a great way to get up close and personal with nature and a chance to explore your city from a new perspective, it can also be a very social event.
If you take a quick search on social media, you will see lots of different local birdwatching groups that you can join. You will find these groups are incrediblywelcoming, and it is a great chance to start mixing with like-minded people.
Alongside being a great social event, birdwatching groups will also help you to learn and increase your knowledge. You will find that these groups have members of all experience levels who will only be happy to help you on your urban birdwatching adventure.
- Forget the camouflage
Urban birdwatching allows you to forget about expensive kit and waterproofs needed for more rural adventures. Instead, you will be able to start out using just a pair of binoculars – although this isn’t always a requirement in certain environments.
However you begin urban birdwatching, one major tip that you should keep in mind is not to try and see 50 species in one day. The trick is to take your time and get to understand the varieties in your town, the birding patches you should frequent and the regularity of the population.
- Look up
This might sound like an obvious one, but you will be very surprised at the number of people who forget to do this when out and about. While you might remember to do this when heading out to your favouring birding patch, keeping your eyes towards the sky when walking to the station will ensure you do not miss anything!
See also: Garden bird photography
Want to join a birding community?
Are you thinking of starting urban birdwatching? It can be a great way to unlock more of the city that you live in and still get close to nature. Here at Birda, our mission is to help you discover more about the urban birds that live around you and give you tips and advice to ensure you can maximise your experience.
Our free birdwatching app has been designed to help you meet like-minded urban birdwatchers and deepen your connection with the natural world around you. Our community is at the heart of what we do, and with our app, you will be able to learn what species you are seeing and get advice from fellow birdwatchers.