Don’t worry if you can’t get out of the city but still want to enjoy birdwatching – urban birds are all around you! From the common Pigeon to Peregrine Falcon, there’s a surprising number of birds that frequent the city.

What is Urban Birding?

Downtowns, city centres, or concrete jungles may not be what one first thinks of as a habitat for any bird other than a Rock Pigeon, but birds of all kinds have adapted to live and survive in urban environments. Even small green spaces can support a large number of birds.

Look up and stay grounded – you’ll be surprised by the birds you can spot in the city. Photo by Destination BC/Kezia Nathe.

Urban birding is essentially birding in the city. It may not be everyone’s first choice, but it’s actually a great way to get into and get excited about birding. Some may find it challenging at first to hear or see birds with the busy city chaos, but a well-tuned ear and active eyes can catch birds you may have never noticed before.

Let’s take a look at why birdwatching in the city can be a great part of your birding routine and what birds you can expect to find in BC cities.

Benefits of Urban Birding

Nature is not limited to the picturesque countryside or that huge provincial park an hour’s drive away – you can tune in to nature from anywhere, and the city is no different. Birdwatching can be a really special way to connect with nature in an urban setting – it gives you something to focus on, something to look forward to, and something that can create excitement. It can make walking to the store not just a chore, but something you want to do because you might see your resident hummingbird singing in the trees above you.

Crows and other Corvids make for entertaining observations. Photo by Shayne Kaye.

Once you start to notice birds around you going about their business, you’ll see them everywhere! Common species living in city centres give you a chance to really appreciate and learn about bird behaviour. Watch how crows interact with each other or with perceived threats. See their creativity in getting into leftovers from a garbage can. Observe how Rock Pigeons puff out their feathers as they pursue a mate. Cheer on an American Robin in the morning as the early bird tries to get the worm.

If you’re into photography, then practicing on urban birds is great. They’re more used to people and usually less skittish when you’re trying to get a photo. Plus, a great photo of a common species is still a great photo! Urban birds can also help you work on your bird identification skills. Seeing a handful of species regularly will help you start to remember which is which, making it a lot easier to keep that going and expand that knowledge to more (less-common) species. It’s also a good way to hone your listening skills, using more frequent birds to help you recognize their songs and calls. 

Birds are pretty incredible, and observing urban birds helps us appreciate how adaptable birds can be when they live around people. 

Urban Birds Around BC

Here are a handful of some of the birds you’re most likely to see in the city.

Crows are a very common bird to see in cities. They may seem like just an ordinary, everyday bird, but they’re incredibly intelligent and interesting to observe.

Mallards are super common in city parks, and sometimes you’ll even see them taking naps along grassy boulevards on streets close to ponds or water sources.

City parks with ponds are a great place to spot waterfowl. Photo by Shayne Kaye.

Dark-eyed Juncos, American Robins, House Sparrows, and House Finches are all around residential areas close to town. They are especially active in the spring, so you’ll likely see them on the ground looking for food or nest materials. 

Robins are the iconic spring bird. Photo by Shayne Kaye.

For some rarer urban birds, Turkey Vultures are always an exciting part of the summer, as they form large kettling circles in the sky. Barred Owls are not too common to see during the day, but they can be spotted on street lights or on tree branches around dusk or dawn.

It’s not unusual to see hawks and other bird of prey hunting in city parks. Photo by Shayne Kaye.

Cooper’s Hawks are another rare sight, you may be lucky enough to see one mid-hunt, chasing their prey through bushes and trees. You may also see them surveying for food way up in the sky. And depending on where you are in BC, you might see Bald Eagles soaring the skies from time to time.

Peregrine Falcons are found all over the world, and cities are no exception – just think, you might see the fastest animal in the world while walking to get a coffee!

You don’t have to go far from home to see our avian friends and feel that connection to nature. Just remember to look up, and stay grounded!

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