Urban wildlife in Winter

Waxwing by Trevor Codlin

Wildlife watching can feel fruitless in winter when the countryside seems to have a lot less to offer compared to a walk in the other seasons. But now we can really appreciate our urban wildlife, the creatures that are perfectly at home right under our noses and have adapted to life alongside humans.

In the park

Head down to your local park or green space and there are a few species you are bound to encounter. Pigeons can be spotted in small flocks in trees or perhaps feeding on the ground. Unlike many birds, pigeons do not have a breeding season and have been recorded laying in every month of the year. This is thanks mainly to their varied diet (meaning they are not reliant on seasonal insects or seeds). Their sloppy nest is a rough platform of twigs, often spotted in park trees or outbuildings. The young chicks, known as squabs, are fed on a special milk-like liquid secreted by the parents.

Wood pigeons have a distinctive white collar, while in the city you may also spot both feral pigeons (or rock doves) and stock doves. Feral pigeons come in a huge variety of colours and can look very similar to the stock dove.

Pigeons are a favourite prey of peregrine falcons, another recent coloniser of the urban environment. Peregrines can be seen swooping at super-fast speeds over many of Hampshire’s cities and towns. This species has made an amazing recovery after disappearing from southern England by the 1980s, largely as the result of pesticide use.

On the streets

The sun sets so early in winter that much of your time outdoors might be spent in the dusk, as the day draws to a close. Keep an eye out for foxes, another creatures that has made the most of expanding towns and cities. Foxes can make a nuisance of themselves by eating from our bins, often scattering rubbish on the streets. They will also eat insects or fallen fruit from gardens, not being especially picky eaters.

If you are really lucky you might even spot one of the most exotic city-dwelling species of all. Waxwings head south to Britain to feast on berries in the wintertime and as many car parks and city streets are home to rowan trees, keep your eyes peeled for these beautiful unmistakeable birds. You never do know what you might find when you are urban wildlife watching!