Remember the song, “Downtown” sung by Petula Clark? Instead of listening “to the music of the traffic in the city,” you can listen to the songs of the birds in the city or the town. As the song goes on to say, “Linger on the sidewalk… How can you lose?” Well, you definitely can’t lose!
The birds that inhabit our Peninsula downtowns have much to offer. Research indicates for example, that urban birds sing louder and maybe even slightly differently because they have to compete with things like traffic. If one is to attract a mate a louder song is likely a necessary quality for a bird who chooses to live downtown. Bird song is always music to the ear and often adds joy to one’s day. Bird behaviour in town is interesting and may not be something we see in our backyards or it may be a variation on what we observe. Birds may be taking a dust bath, gathering nesting material such as paper, tissues etc. that have been thrown on the roadside or dropped on the sidewalk, drinking from a puddle or like the robin, tugging at a worm or an invertebrate from down deep in a lawn when it is ready for lunch. The fast-food birds, such as the ring-billed gull, will feast on anything that people drop or leave behind in the restaurant parking lot. Rock pigeons and house sparrows might be on the hunt there too. Take a look the next time you go by a MacDonald’s. Take note of which species are there and what they are doing. Are they eating, resting, loafing or doing something else? How many fast-food bird species do you see?
Up is one of the watch words for birders in the city. Utility wires, the sky, trees, store signs, fences, flagpoles and roofs are all places that birds might be. Looking down can also be rewarding. Roads, roadsides, school yards, lawns, lampposts, street plantings and flower beds, parking lots, sidewalks, and almost anywhere on the ground are the places where you will likely see birds.
Who hangs around or lives downtown? Ring-billed gulls and rock pigeons are always in the fast-food parking lots in Long Beach, and rock pigeons sit on the utility wires in all of the peninsula downtowns. House sparrows build nests downtown. Store signs, and roofs are places to check out. Look for paper, string, grasses and other plant material sticking out from behind a sign or from behind the 3D lettering. House finch, Eurasian-collared doves and the European starlings hang out downtown, too. Brewer’s blackbirds, along with crows and ravens are often seen foraging on the streets, roads and lawns of our downtown areas. These are the usuals, but there maybe other species! Keep your eyes open!
If you bird the sky, there is no telling what you will see. Ravens, crows, California scrub-Jays, double-crested cormorants, gulls of various species, shorebirds on their way to the ocean beaches, osprey, bald eagles and barn swallows are just a few of the species I have observed when “downtown” on the Peninsula. I have also seen Vs of Canada geese flying over as well as other waterfowl on migration.
Our feeders and backyards aren’t the only places where we can enjoy the birds. Bird watching urban style can be exciting too. How many species do you see when you are “downtown”? Happy birding!