You don’t have to visit extensive refuges or isolated preserves for fantastic birding. In fact, urban areas can yield surprisingly great birding experiences. Even the biggest cities can be home to many amazing birds—if you know how to find them.
City Birds to Watch For
Everyone expects to see flocks of pigeons, house sparrows, and even hybrid ducks in urban areas. But, there are many more birds that can be found in cities. Many birds have adapted to make the most of cosmopolitan resources.
Many hawks and falcons are naturally found in cliffside habitats. Skyscrapers mimic that natural habitat. Furthermore, the rats, mice, and squirrels in many cities provide abundant prey for raptors. Kestrels, red-tailed hawks, and even peregrine falcons are often found in urban areas. If the city is on or near a river, ospreys can be frequent residents as well.
Even the tiniest birds can be right at home in big cities. Many hummingbirds thrive in urban areas thanks to an abundance of flowerbeds, botanical gardens, and even flower pots or planters on urban patios and balconies.
Many different types of waterfowl are easy to find in cities. Not only will ducks, geese, swans, and coots take advantage of ponds and drainage areas, but if there is even a slight wetland habitat adjacent to the water, herons, egrets, and occasional rails will flock.
While often associated with beaches, gulls are actually very adaptable birds. They can make the most of urban landscapes where there are many food sources, including trash and scraps, available for scavenging. Gulls are also often seen around landfills near urban areas.
Jays, crows, ravens, and other corvids are intelligent birds that adapt well to cities. They will take advantage of a variety of food sources and stay in cities year-round.
See also: How to Attract Blue Jays
Sparrows and Finches
These small birds might at first go unnoticed in a large city. But, wherever there are weed seeds and scraps available, sparrows and finches will take advantage of them. These birds will come to urban parks and similar city habitats.
Cities are amazing hotspots for feral colonies of introduced birds, including parrots and peafowl. These unexpected birds can delight both birders and non-birders with their unusual appearance and extraordinary coloration.
During peak migration periods, a wide range of other birds may pass through the city limits as they travel between their breeding and non-breeding ranges. At any time, you could spot an unusual visitor in a city.
Where to Find Urban Birds
Any habitat can attract amazing birds if it meets birds’ needs for food, water, and shelter. Sprawling buildings and acres of asphalt don’t provide many resources for birds. Still, there are certain places within cities that can be spectacular refuges for birds. Top places to see birds within cities include:
- Parks, athletic fields, and sports complexes
- Botanical gardens and urban zoos
- Riverwalks or greenways
- Business parks with extensive landscaping
- College and university campuses
- Golf courses
Because green space can be very limited in a city, many urban areas fiercely safeguard natural areas. It isn’t unusual to find a small nature preserve or similar natural sanctuary within the city limits. These preserves can be ideal locations to spot many different birds.
More City Birding Tips
Make the most of your visit to this unique habitat. Connect with a local birding group if possible to ask about specific trip locations or to take note of any recent unusual bird sightings. Take care not to damage or disturb the limited urban habitat birds have to use.
Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of the best birding that you’ll only find in cities—local museum collections or art exhibits featuring birds. This can be a great opportunity to get up close and personal even with extinct birds. It’s a fun way to experience the city’s culture and heritage, without missing any fantastic birds.