Birds in the city


Flocks of birds in the city: who can help us?

I would like to bring to attention the pitiful and serious state in which the area of ​​Corso Duca di Genova has been pouring for some years after Piazza delle repubbliche Marinare, in Ostia. In fact, I live at number n. 253, an area constantly assaulted by flocks of birds appreciated for their pirouettes in the air, but which also have the habit of dirtying the streets and parked cars. In fact, these birds are a problem for us residents of the area. They line up in the trees and get dirty everywhere. We tried with a kind of gun that every five minutes made an intimidating bang: the birds escaped, but at the next bang they returned to the trees that are right in front of our house. Then they started not running away anymore. We didn't know what to do anymore.

These birds get dirty everywhere ... There is no peace. Some of us have thought of a representative of contraceptives. Obviously, a problem would arise: in fact, these would not be products that male birds can wear, although Providence does not place limits on evolution. These would be pills to be mixed with feed. If the females ate them every day they would become sterile, so the birds would begin to thin out. But there are also those who, while believing it is right for men to have condoms, pills, euthanasia, on the other hand think that it is equally right that birds do not have them, poor beasts, which can reproduce naturally, dirty naturally. , go off naturally, in the family or on the sidewalks of Lido di Corso Duca di Genova.

What angers us most is the fact that for some time they had not shown up again and we hoped to finally be free of them. In fact, last year LIPU experts tried to chase them away with calls: the experiment consisted in making the flocks cry out through loudspeakers, to make them move away All useless: for some months they did not show up and then they came back again. So much so that degradation and destruction have recently even increased. Besides, they make a lot of noise all the time, even while they sleep. They will have bad dreams! They dirty the cars parked under the trees. And even trees can be damaged by all the droppings of thousands of birds. Difficult problem to solve. And now the flocks have regained full possession of the buildings of this stretch of Corso Duca di Genova and the results are visible. So on the sills of our windows and on the sidewalks, these poor little birds lay their droppings undisturbed, which by now have created a real carpet. And besides being an indecent sight, it often happens that the guano also lands on passers-by. Now I've really said it all.

We hope someone can help us!

Mario Pulimanti (Lido di Ostia-Rome)

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Birds in the city

Larks, sparrows, goldfinches and greenfinches are decreasing in the peripheral areas due to land consumption

In our cities there are fewer and fewer sparrows while hawks and seagulls increase. To map the presence of birds in urban centers is the Lipu-BirdLife Italy in a volume entitled Urban bird atlases in Europe which collects the proceedings of the round table held in Naples on 27 September as part of the 20th Italian convention of ornithology (That is).

On a general level, the study notes, the consolidation of species present for some time in European historic centers such as pigeons, swifts, blackbirds and starlings are flanked by two trends: a positive one, which sees a clear expansion of the wood pigeon, the other negative concerning i sparrows (European flounder and Italian flounder), whose populations have halved, on average, in the last 10 years,.

Among the species on the rise are the peregrine falcon, kestrel, herring gull, green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker is common redstart.

Among the species that suffer most from habitat changes we find, in the more peripheral areas on the borders between cities and countryside, thelark, the stomp it and the gravedigger, while also the rarefaction of greenfinch is goldfinch reveals us a excessive land consumption. Finally, the destruction of riparian vegetation in wetlands and along waterways causes river nightingales is caneiole are increasingly rare.

In particular, the species that nest in uncultivated habitats (land with spontaneous grasses, bushes, hedges), are very useful for monitoring the dynamics of urban transformation and land consumption. To this end, seven have been identified: thenightingale, the stomp it, L'river nightingale, the gravedigger, the common canapino, L’Having her small and the goldfinch.

It is precisely in the Atlas created in Pisa last year that these species have decreased by 35% in the last 20 years and by 41% in the urban area of ​​Livorno, confirming habitats increasingly compromised by the consumption of land for urban use.

The importance of ornithological atlases, which require study times ranging from 1 or 2 years up to 10 years to compile, was also emphasized byHigher Institute for Environmental Protection and Researchand (Ispra) which since 2018 has systematically included them among the indicators of the Quality report of the urban environment (Rau), The first was built in Florence in 1990, the last last year in Pisa.

Italy is the country that in Europe, and in the world, has created the largest number of urban ornithological atlases (61 in Italy, 122 in Europe): 41 areas involved, including Turin, Genoa, Milan, Venice, Pisa, Rome, Naples and Cagliari, while Florence is the first city to have three editions published, with a fourth in progress of realization.

The presence of ornithological atlases is also widespread in Europe, with 15 states and 89 cities involved, from Barcelona to Paris, from Vienna to Brussels, from London (his first European atlas of 1977) to Prague, Berlin and Warsaw, from Amsterdam. up to Moscow.

"This is the most complete and updated overview of the presence of avifauna in urban centers, also achieved thanks to the contribution of European ornithologists", he explains Marco Dinetti, head of Urban Ecology of Lipu-BirdLife Italy. "The survey methodology of the urban ornithological atlas has proved to be a useful tool both from a scientific point of view because the birds, which act as indicators, provide information on environmental quality, and for correct urban planning and sustainable management of greenery urban. A fundamental contribution to the work of the atlases came from the Urban Avifauna working group, active since 1990, whose purpose is the standardization of methodologies, the comparison and exchange of data and information. A constant and widespread commitment that, thanks to the involvement of people with a view to citizen science, has so far brought relevant results and an in-depth knowledge of ornithological dynamics in relation also to habitat changes taking place in urban areas ".

Even the birds they try stress in the city. Comparing two birds of the same species, one raised in an urban environment and the other raised in the countryside, the researchers noticed a notable difference. The birds raised in the city age faster. This observation raised several questions regarding the health of birds and other animals living in cities, including humans. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have shown that birds of the Parus major species, commonly known as the great tit, are at high risk of dying young when they grow up in city environments.

The biologist Pablo Salmón and his team have shown that early exposure to the environment of the city can disturb the normal development of birds with potentially irreversible effects on their life expectation. Although there are advantages to living in the city, such as access to food, birds seem overloaded with disadvantages, such as stress. By saying that birds experience stress in the city, we mean the fact that they are highly exposed to pollution, noise and contact with humans.

Salmón's team found that the length of the telomeres in city-dwelling great tits it is shorter than in rural ones. Telomeres are located in the terminal region of chromosomes and are the most indicative factor of the age biomarker. Short telomeres imply a short life expectancy. The researchers studied two groups of great tit, closely related to each other: most of them grew up in the city of Malmö, while the other part in the countryside. After two weeks, the difference in telomere lengths between the two groups was already noticeable.

Typically, genetics determine telomere length, but this study shows for the first time ever that growing in a stressful environment it can have an even greater impact. The research highlights the need to carry out further studies on the impacts of urban stress on the population. It would be interesting to know if the length of human telomeres is narrowed due to similar factors. However, it must be taken into account that the study included a single bird species. Other varieties of birds, such as pigeons, robins, and blackbirds, appear to do well in urban settlements.

How to build birdhouses in the city

Birdwatching is an activity that requires patience but can give great satisfaction to both enthusiasts and beginners. To bring the birds closer and facilitate eye contact, we propose to build a house and a bird feeder, an activity to share with children but which will undoubtedly also entertain the older ones.

If you live in the city and look out the window, chances are you see palaces, asphalt, concrete is cars. Nothing strange, it is part of the everyday life of each of us. But this means that it also represents the daily life of your children, who are growing up away from nature. Have you ever thought about it?
Sometimes it takes very little to regain contact with nature, such as doing birdwatching, an activity that can thrill adults and children, offering an extra moment to be together.

For this we suggest one list of "citizen" birds and instructions for building a birdhouse and bird feeder from common materials. I'm deliberately simple projects, which you can share at each stage with your children.

You can enrich the experience by preparing one card for each sighting, with photos of the birds, their favorite food and the times they eat. You will thus have a album to be looked at together at home with friends and relatives and you will make the experience educational as well as fun.

How to build the house

The first thing to do is to build a refuge where birds can protect themselves from the cold in these last days of winter. Depending on the type of house, its size and its location, you will have a different tenant.

  • Tetrapak carton, with a tall and narrow shape (like that of fruit juice or milk)
  • Scissors
  • Stick of an ice cream (or a pencil, a stick that you have collected together, etc.)
  • Glue
  • Straw or dry leaves
  • Colors, crepe paper and glue


  1. Wash the cardboard and cut an opening in the lower half. Dimensions may vary, but leave at least 2-3 centimeters of cardboard between the opening and the edge, this will make the result more stable.
  2. Make a small incision about 2 centimeters below, where you will insert and glue the stick. This will allow the birds to perch and make the nest more comfortable for its new guests.
  3. Have your child decorate the outside of the house, giving vent to the imagination.
  4. A base of straw or dry leaves inside and the house is ready!

You can decide to hang it on a tree branch, in a secluded position on your balcony or wherever you like. Remember that the place must be quiet, peaceful and away from any pets. Better that it is not a place of passage: if you have a balcony long, hang it at the top, at the bottom, so that the animals feel more protected and your presence does not scare them. In any case, position it so that it is clearly visible from a window where you can make your observations.

How to build the manger

Winter is a difficult season, in which resident birds (those that do not migrate) have a harder time finding food. Offering them a delicious treat does not only mean attracting them and allowing us to observe them, but it will help them not to go hungry during the coldest period.

  • Seeds for birds, chopped nuts
  • Mismatched coffee saucers
  • Gelatin in sheets, in powder, or agar-agar (a natural gelling agent obtained from Japanese red algae).
  • water
  • Cookie cutters
  • Straws
  • Ribbons


  1. Put a sheet of chopped gelatin in a bowl.
  2. Heat half a glass of water well and pour it over the gelatin, stir to make it dissolve well and wait for the mixture to become lukewarm.
  3. Add the bird seeds and dried fruit to the jelly and let your baby mix the mixture well until it becomes sticky.
  4. Crush the mixture inside the molds and insert a straw to create a small hole. Let them cool well in the refrigerator (it will take at least a couple of hours) and then let them air dry, even for one or two days.
  5. Remove the molds (you can help yourself with a small knife along the edges) and the straws and tie them with a ribbon near the house (or outside the window).

It can happen that the molds break: if this happens, put the crumbs in a saucer and next time try using more water and gelatin.

In different saucers you can offer a lot of leftovers, like pieces of biscuits or cakes, leftover salami fat, small pieces of apple cut. You can also add sunflower seeds with the shell: seeing the technique with which the tits manage to open them to reveal the inner seed is really fascinating! If you have enough space on the windowsill, remember to provide a saucer of fresh water.

City birds, the most common species

Scientific name: Turdus merola
Length: about 25cm.

The male is completely black, with a yellow-orange beak, while the female is brown (including the beak), with a lighter belly. This difference between male and female of the same species is called dimorphism and it is characteristic of this and other species in which the female must hatch the eggs and needs to blend in with the environment in which the nest has been prepared. Blackbirds are among the most widespread birds, usually seen digging in lawns and gardens to hunt for worms and insects.

Scientific name: Passer domesticus
Length: about 15cm.

The male has brown feathers on his back and gray on his belly and his throat has black feathers. The female, on the other hand, has lighter back feathers with brown streaks. These small animals are very common both in the countryside and in the cities, where they are not afraid to approach when they can get food.

Scientific name: Fringilla coelebs
Length: about 15cm.

The female is brown-yellow on the back, white on the belly. Males have more showy plumage to attract females: blue shades on the head, green above the tail, pink on the chest, black and white stripes on the wings. Usually the finches they live near woods, fields or parks, but in winter hunger pushes them to get closer to the city. This species was hunted extensively in the past, but is now protected and this makes it easier to hear its song again.

Great tit

Scientific name: Parus major
Length: about 14cm.

It has beautiful plumage: green on its back, gray-blue tail and wings, black head and throat, white cheeks and yellow belly with a vertical black line. These birds are not shy: if they are present in your area you will surely have the opportunity to observe them at the manger.

During winter and spring it is easy to hear him sing, even imitating the song of other birds.

Scientific name: Erithacus robecula
Length: about 14cm.

Robins are birds that are easily distinguished from all the others: they have a gray / white belly and a brown back, but are immediately recognized by their throat and cheeks of a beautiful orange color. THE robins are not afraid to approach, especially if they can find something to eat and are therefore easy to observe at the manger. In nature, their diet consists of insects, but also berries and small fruits. But next Christmas try to leave a piece of pandoro near the manger, they are greedy.

Scientific name: Chloris chloris
Length: 16cm

Greenfinches have an unmistakable color: green-yellow feathers, yellow wings and tail, light beak and legs. They are greedy for seeds, especially oily ones: offer them pumpkin or sunflower seeds, always with the outer skin. The beak of these birds has evolved to break the hard shells, which is why its shape is short and stocky.

Hooded Crow

Scientific name: Corvus cornix
Length: 45cm

The head, wings and tail are black, the back and belly are light gray. They are omnivorous and intelligent animals: they drop nuts, crabs or snails from a certain height, in order to damage their shells and feed on the inside. They adapt well to changes and are also often seen in the city and in the green spaces along the streets.

These are not the only species you will be able to observe: depending on the place, altitude and type of environment, the birds that you can observe are different. To deepen the topic Birdwatching and the philosophy behind it, the best site is certainly, where you can also find advice and information.

There are also many atlases and lists of birds, which can be purchased in bookstores or online, directly on Bird Guide of Europe. Color illustrated atlas "target =" _ blank "> Amazon .

Over the course of history, the movement of these animals from their natural environments to these artificial environments has gradually grown in tandem with the increase in the size of cities, whose enormous quantities of waste now form the basis of many food chains. [1]

In addition to the large quantities of food scraps, these man-made environments provide them with several other advantages: the heat that escapes from heated buildings makes cities warmer, houses and farmhouses provide suitable places to build the nest or den, parks and the gardens are an excellent alternative to natural greenery, in fact hunting is not allowed and, apart from dogs and cats, common predators of natural habitats are not encountered. [1]

Let's assume that urban fauna strongly depends on the geographic region, even if some species are almost cosmopolitan.

Below we refer to the Italian urban environments (and exclusively to vertebrates).

Amphibians Edit

Among the Amphibians observed, we remember the Green frog, common in the irrigation ditches that divide the fields. The Green Toad often enters the gardens of suburban houses, which sometimes deposits its eggs in small private pools or artificial ponds for goldfish.

Reptiles Edit

Among the Reptiles, the Lizard has adapted well to living on walls in farmhouses and in the city.

Birds Edit

Among the birds, the most common are the sparrows in a broad sense, in particular the house sparrow and the tree sparrow, the latter more abundant in the suburbs and in the countryside. The white dancer belongs to the same superfamily, very well adapted to man-made environments.

Starlings are also very abundant and, like sparrows, nest under the tiles of the roofs (in the central-southern cities, however, they are present only in autumn and / or winter and therefore do not nest).

Then there are the swallows, in particular the common swallow, which builds its nest in farms, stables and old houses, and the house martin, more common in the city. Similar in appearance even if of a different family is the swift, which nests under the tiles, in the gutters and in the cavities of historic buildings.

Pigeons frequent both the city and the cultivated countryside. In the city their number is often excessive also because man gives them food in the main squares and periodically in the big cities the problem is discussed on how to reduce their number using techniques acceptable to the population. Together with the pigeons also the jackdaws often nest in the crevices of the old walls, on the bell towers and on the towers. The eastern collared dove nests in the trees of gardens and parks. The Hooded Crow nests both in the city and in the countryside, even on the pylons and is a truly omnivorous bird, and therefore easily finds food. For some years now, magpies have also been increasing in the city and their huge nests can be seen in the trees of parks and gardens.

Many birds that normally live in the woods, such as the great tit, the blackbird, the blackcap, the robin, the goldfinch, have become accustomed to proximity to humans and nest in parks, hedges and private gardens.

Common gulls and herring gulls are common in coastal cities (eg Naples) or across rivers (eg Rome), but can also be found in other cities. We incidentally recall a notable example of the link between seagulls and human activities: in the bad season, especially in the Po Valley, it is possible to observe them in fields and water meadows, but also in landfills, in large flocks, intent on feeding on the organic remains contained. in the urban garbage.

Some species of hawks nest on the roof or elevated parts of historic buildings, churches or other buildings where there are extensive external portions usually not subject to disturbances by human activities: the city offers them abundant food in the form of pigeons and passerines. The same thing can be said for some species of Strigiformes, such as the owl, the tawny owl, the barn owl. The presence of these predators is well regarded for the natural demographic control they carry out on urban populations of pigeons.

Each city has its own particularities [2]: gray herons in Turin and Milan, hoopoe in Mestre, jays in Ferrara, collared parakeets in Rome and Genoa, etc. (The cities indicated are not to be considered exclusive but exemplary.)

Great absent in the current urban fauna (at least in Italy) is the stork, which was once a common and very evident presence.

Mammals Edit

Among mammals, rats and mice have adapted well, for millennia, to proximity to humans who unwittingly offer them places to lay their burrows and an abundance of food. Bats, in the evening, leave their hiding places to hunt for insects that fly around the street lamps. The mole gladly frequents the cultivated fields where the earth is loose and where it is less tiring to dig and sometimes they also frequent the gardens of the houses that arise in the suburbs.

The carnivores that frequent the urban suburbs most often are foxes, while weasels and stone martens sometimes make forays into chicken coops to hunt chickens.

Video: Corella birds take over Shellharbour streets. 9 News Australia

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