London is famous for lots of reasons – one of the biggest European cities, a fashion capital of the world, a preferred city by most international celebrities, the list goes on but did you know that London is also one of the cities with the most diverse urban wildlife? There are a great number of creatures living among the unsuspected citizens, some are well known, but others may surprise you. If you are a wildlife enthusiast who is preparing a house moving in London you are in luck, this article will introduce you to the incredible urban faun. In this first part of ower two-part series, you will get to know better the most common wild animals who live in the big city.
Taking a sip of your coffee the morning after your London house moving is finally over you look out the window and you are greeted by the curious stare of a Peregrine falcon. What is this sorcery you will ask, how is this possible in the middle of busy London? Don’t be alarmed this is not some deluded animal who escaped from the zoo, you just met one of the many incredible species of urban wild birds. Most native Londoners have never met a lot of the birds described here, but there are always those few lucky exceptions. Be sure to have your camera underhand when you are drinking your morning coffee, you never know.
Hawks, Kites, and Falcons
Yes, you can find all of these majestic birds in London, amazing isn’t it? Once upon a time fifteen years ago the Old capital was ruled by another bird – the pigeon. They were everywhere and posed a great concern for the good people of London thus the Harris Hawks were introduced to the city. Nowadays teams of trained hawks patrol the city and they and their trainers keep the city squares and park pigeon-free.
Falcons, on the other hand, dominate the London skies and tall buildings completely untamed. There are around thirty breeding pairs of Peregrine falcons in the capital. This incredible bird is the fastest known member of the animal kingdom. They prefer nesting on tall buildings so you definitely have a chance to spot one if you are relocating near the Tate Modern, the Leadenhall Building, the Houses of Parliament or the Charing Cross Hospital.
Once extinct in London, the red kite is back and it is here to stay. This beautiful bird is a scavenger and has a difficulty when it comes to finding food in the city. Look for it on the outskirts of London where there are more densely wooded areas.
Owls are not considered to be an urban bird but the facts show otherwise. Almost all of the breeding species of British owls have made London their home.
Barn Owls typically live in the suburbs and in the rural outskirts of the city but sometimes they wander in the more central parts of London.
Long-eared and Short-eared Owls can be seen in winter although they are just passing by while migrating.
The most common species is the Tawny Owl. They are not disturbed by the city noises and the crowded streets. You can find them in parks, cemeteries, backyards, as long as there are big old trees, they are there. The Tawny Owls can be spotted in all 32 London boroughs except for the City of London so stay on the lookout when you are moving houses in London.
The Little Owl is another small hunter that can be seen in the capital. This tiny bird can hunt during the day and prefers the outskirts of the big city.
Did you know there is a whole flock of colourful parrots living in the heart of the capital of the UK? If you are passing by Greater London take your time and visit Kew or Richmond Park. You can’t miss them they are large, green and extremely loud. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds estimates that there are around 8,600 breeding pairs living in London. Nobody knows for sure how they end up in the city, so north from their natural home – Central America, but here they are.
These charming birds are called Psittacula krameri and belong to the parrot family mostly known by the name ring-necked or rose-ringed parakeets. They are friendly birds that love treats so bring an apple next time you decide to explore the park. If you are fortunate enough, you may end up covered in happy, chirping parakeets.
Parrots, owls and all kinds of amazing birds but that are not all that London can offer to its newly moved citizens. The capital provides a suitable habitat for lots of other animals. Although most of them are nocturnal, you can still spot them hiding in the hedge of most backyards or taking a stroll in a shadowy back alley. To all unsuspecting London house movers out there, we would like to introduce you to a few of your soon to be neighbours.
It is not surprising that we start with one of Britain’s most loved animals. According to the Mammal Research Unit at the University of Bristol, there are around 33,000 urban foxes in Britain, with presumably 10,000 living in London. However, they are not easy to spot. Foxes make their homes under thick bushes and tree roots, under old garden sheds or abandoned buildings. A skulk (a term used to describe a group of foxes) typically consists of two parents, their cubs and occasionally of one or two non-breeding females. Foxes are fast animals, that can effortlessly leap over a 6ft fence. It’s quite difficult to catch one and we do not advise you to try unless you want to be left with a nasty bite mark.
Nevertheless, red foxes are extremely curious and love to explore new places and new smells. A fox was once spotted riding the London Subway and in 2011 another one climbed 71 sets of steps to end up on top of The Shard – the tallest skyscraper in the city.
Everybody loves hedgehogs, with their pointy nuzzles and shining black eyes, they are simply adorable. These live pincushions are highly adaptable and can live almost everywhere. They eat a wide range of insects and garden pests and especially love snakes and lizards.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of factors such as climate change and human activity their population is rapidly declining in Great Britain. In order to protect its urban hedgehogs, a number of campaigns have started in London.
If you relocate to South West London and spot a hole in your fence do not be alarmed, this is a hedgehog highway. Created by the architectural genius of Michel Birkenwald these holes help the safe passage of the little nocturnal animals.
The London Wildlife Trust has launched a campaign for mapping the movements of urban hedgehogs in order to preserve their habitats and raise awareness about the issue. Hedgehogs are an important part of the city culture and ecosystem and we have to do everything in our power to ensure their survival.
Britain’s beloved water voles are best described by Kenneth Grahame in his famous novel The Wind in the Willows: “A brown little face, with whiskers. A grave round face, with the same twinkle in its eye that had first attracted his notice. Small neat ears and thick silky hair.”.
This small semi-aquatic rodent can be found around river beds with thick greenery. Unfortunately, the urbanization of London’s river has caused the destruction of most river banks which is the main reason for the decline in the population of the water voles. Those little creatures have an important role in the river ecosystem and in the past years, the British government with the association of several environmental organizations are trying their best to protect the species from extinction. If you want to help the preservation efforts, visit the site of the London Wildlife Trust.
House removals in London can be quite hectic and tiring, so why don’t you take a stroll in one of the many parks in the East parts of the city and observe the curious water voles.
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