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Bird watching in central London

Published: 03/06/2020

The birds most spotted in London are wood pigeon, house sparrow, blue tit, starling, feral pigeon, blackbird, robin, great tit, magpie, and goldfinch. Around 300 different species have been recorded in London at different times of the year. Some reside year-round, while others migrate from as far away as Siberia or sub-Saharan Africa.

If you live in the city and fancy 'twitching', here are some places to put your binoculars to good use.

Parks

Despite being in the centre of London, there are plenty of trees and green spaces for birds to flourish, so head to Richmond Park, Regent's Park, St James's Park, Hyde Park, and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Often overlooked, are small local parks. Not all of them are great for bird watching, but many provide much-needed sanctuaries for wildlife.

Go early for the best results.

Open Spaces

At Hampstead Heath, Wanstead Flats, Little Wormwood Scrubs, and Lee Valley (incorporating Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes), there are round 200 species including bittern and black-necked grebe.

Utility Sites

These are mostly enclosed open spaces, free from disturbances and dog walkers. Beddington Farmlands waste site, Wraysbury reservoir, or Thames Water's east London sites at Walthamstow Marshes are excellent places to see birds.

Old Cemeteries

Many of London's well-known cemeteries are overgrown, providing a haven for wildlife. Visit: Kensal Green, West Norwood, Highgate, Abney Park, Nunhead, Brompton or Tower Hamlets cemeteries for some great results.

Wetlands and Waterways 

Head to the Thames to spot waders and water birds, including gulls, cormorants, geese, and ducks. If you're going to the estuary, make sure to go at low tide when the mudflat is exposed. Visit Crossness or Barking Riverside. The Thames and Lee Valley are important migratory routes for many species.

London's canals are also popular haunts for swans, coots, moorhens, and some herons.

Thames tributaries

The Wandle is excellent for seeing birds such as Brent, Colne, Crane, and Mardyke to name but a few. Smaller rivers and streams attract Kingfishers.

Wetlands

In Stoke Newington, East Reservoir nature reserve, Woodberry Wetlands, and Rainham Marshes are home to marsh harrier, lapwing, avocet, and ringed-plover. At Ingrebourne Marshes in Hornchurch you may see water rail, bittern, and bearded tit.

While the above locations offer your highest chances of seeing birds, they can be seen everywhere in London. Pheasants, ducks, and woodcock have been spotted in high streets, on balconies, and roofs!

The trick is to remember to look around and lookup.