Birds of Stanmore Common

Over sixty species of birds have been recorded on Stanmore Common. Here are some you are likely to see or hear. Follow the links to the RSPB site for images and sound recordings.

Birds of prey: Buzzard breed just north of Stanmore Common. Listen for the mewing call like a cat and look up; you should see it soaring above on its huge broad wings. Red kites are even larger, with a distinctive long forked tail. In summer you may see also hobby, a dark streaked falcon that is so fast and acrobatic it can catch swifts and swallows. It too breeds just off the reserve. All year around you will still see here the increasingly rare kestrel, another falcon with its distinctive hovering flight and sparrowhawk which pursues other birds low through the trees. At night tawny owls call.

Chiffchaff This common warbler which sings its name "Chiff - chaff" and signs off with a little “cough” before it begins again. These days mild winters are encouraging these tiny birds to save flying the 2000 miles back to their regular wintering grounds in West Africa.

Great spotted woodpecker Throughout the year you will hear the sharp "pik" call of the great spotted woodpecker. This is a contact call. In spring both males and females drum rapidly on dead wood to tell others this is their patch. Woodpeckers will fight fiercely if an intruder does not back down. The reason for the pressure on territories is the fact that Woodpecker food largely consists of wood boring insect larvae, often in dead rotten timber and these are sparsely distributed so a woodpecker needs a fairly large territory to keep alive.

Jay See image below. These beige-pink members of the crow family warn all the other woodland dwellers of danger with their harsh blunt screams. It is the acorn burying of Jays that spreads oak trees across the woods.

Pigeons and doves The song of wood pigeons is familiar from our gardens and is sometimes rendered as the (politically incorrect) "Tak two coos, Taffy, tak two coos, Taffy, tak two coos, Taffy, tak". However wood pigeons are not the only members of the pigeon family on the reserve. You should hear the OO OO sound of stock doves. Stock doves are specialised woodland birds, nesting in tree holes. The UK population is stable and the UK holds an internationally important population, with over half the European population living here. Stock doves resemble rock doves and their feral decendents, the common town pigeon. The best way to distinguish stock doves from feral pigeons is in the black banding on the wings which is complete in feral pigeons (and rock doves) and broken in stock doves.

Lesser redpoll In winter, in the open ground of Bluebell Heath, listen for the buzzing twitter of this tiny finch that feeds on conifer seeds.

Ring-necked parakeet See image below. The natural home of this bird is arid tropical areas across a wide swathe of Africa and Asia. They can withstand habitat change and are highly adaptable, often living in urban areas. Other populations live in mountain areas which have cold conditions, indicating that parakeets have a genetic ability to adapt to the cold. The UK population has been estimated at around 9000 birds in 2 main populations. One around London where the main distribution was in the south west of the city and the other in Surrey and Berkshire. They feed on buds, fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries and seeds. Wild flocks fly several miles to forage in farmlands and orchards causing extensive damage. Now these birds are in Harrow and have spread north into Hertfordshire. Although these birds can damage crops and it was thought that they might displace other hole nesting birds there is a lack of evidence that native bird populations are suffering because of parakeets. In contrast in India the parakeets are in severe decline due to nest robbing and trapping for the pet trade.

Robin Familiar from gardens, but here it may be hidden so that you only hear its liquid clear song.

Titmice:

Great tit Great tits make many calls, but the most distinctive is a two note "Tea - cher".

Coal tit Coal tits are also common but the call is more melodic than that of the great tit.

Long tailed tit Family flocks of long tailed tits are often seen in the woodland, giving their scolding buzzy call interspersed with a high pitched sharp tzee, tzee tzee. This bird is unique in Britain in that the young from the previous brood can stay to help with the next one. Although called a long tailed tit it has been separated from the rest of the tit family and been put into the american bush tit family. This is because unlike all other tits in the world it builds a nest instead of using a tree hole. Its habit of family support is again a bush tit trait.

Wren The song is shriller than that of the robin.


Image: Jay by Mr A P Dowley


Image: Parakeet by Steve Bolsover

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