If you are a Philadelphia local, you may take pride in the knowledge that you live somewhere that has been a city since before the United States existed. That's awesome culturally and historically, but at the same time you may find yourself asking, is this sprawling city bare of birds and other animal life? No, surprisingly not at all! Quite the opposite.
The city of Philadelphia is a good place for birding, with lots of green space from your tiny neighborhood square to Fairmount Park. Even building-covered streets with small yards can be surprisingly diverse. During migration, warblers can pop up in any tree. Hawks, vultures and eagles can be seen flying overhead all year. The Schuylkill and Delaware rivers are good for herons, swallows, gulls and ducks. Common birds like robins and cardinals serenade us on spring mornings - if you wake up early enough.
Unfortunately, cities are also full of deadly dangers for all these urban residents. Many are hit by cars, and outdoor cats kill or injure countless birds. One of the leading causes of bird deaths in North America is window collision. Birds either see habitat through a window or reflected in it, and fly into the glass trying to get to that habitat. Birds are quite intelligent, and would perhaps learn to avoid glass if they got the chance, but a bird's first encounter with glass is almost always their last. Somewhat surprisingly, most of these collisions aren't with glass-covered skyscrapers, but with the windows of America's residential homes because more individual homes exist than skyscrapers. There are, however, many easy ways to keep your house from killing birds. Check out these websites for detailed information:
Below are five species of birds that are more common and easy to see in Philadelphia than you may think.
1. Red-tailed Hawk - This large, sturdy raptor is well adapted to living in both rural and urban areas. The adults do have a rusty-red tail, particularly obvious when the birds are circling above, but young birds have brown-and-black striped tails. Philly hotspot for this bird - The Woodlands
2. Bald Eagle - Our national bird has made a big comeback after being severely impacted by DDT. Bald Eagles eat fish, so they often hang out near water. Philly hotspot for this bird - John Heinz NWR at Tinicum
3. Double-crested Cormorant - These strange, duck-like birds catch fish by diving underwater. They have no waterproofing oils on their feathers like many other birds do, so they often perch on a log or other structure with their wings spread out to dry. Philly hotspot for this bird - Art Museum on the Schuylkill
4. Wild Turkey - Contrary to what you may think, these birds can fly. Like most other game-birds, though, turkeys have powerful legs and usually prefer to walk, flying up into trees to roost at night. Philly hotspot for this bird - Bartram's Garden
5. Ring-necked Duck - These black-and-white eraserheads are a superb example of a badly-named bird. Their 'ring-neck' consists of a very faint chestnut-brown collar, visible when the birds are in-hand, a reminder that shotguns - not binoculars - were once the birder's tool of choice. Philly hotspot for this bird - FDR Park
So, now that you've read about all this urban diversity, head outside as the weather turns toward spring and see what kinds of feathered Philadelphia residents you meet!
Written by Toribird