London may be best known for its dazzling neighborhoods like Mayfair, Shoreditch, and Soho, but this iconic city is far more than just urban sprawl. Close to 18% of London is made up of parks, preserves, and other green spaces, and these areas are home to a treasure trove of both native and introduced avian species. If you’re paying a visit to London and hoping to spot some native English fauna during your trip, an incredible birding destination is always a short tube ride away.
WWT London Wetland Centre
There’s ample birding opportunity to be found all throughout London, but for the seasoned wildlife aficionado, no visit is complete without spending a morning at the WWT London Wetland Centre. This sprawling preserve is equipped with meadows, ponds, and flower gardens, ushering in a spectacular array of wildlife ranging from sand martins to bitterns. In addition to water birds, native passerines span all walks of life, with fieldfares, dunnocks, and rooks all residing within the park. One of the most interesting non-native birds in the region is the nēnē, a goose that’s endemic to Hawaiʻi, while Asian small-clawed otters are a particularly fascinating non-avian inhabitant.
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park
It may seem unconventional to visit a cemetery in search of avian life, but the dense vegetation of the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park has fostered a serious amount of biodiversity in East London. While beloved English bird species like firecrests, great spotted woodpeckers, and goldfinches all call the area home, the cemetery is also noted for its rich diversity of butterflies and moths including small blues, peacocks, and commas. As an added bonus, Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park serves as one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries of London, allowing visitors to admire a wealth of ornate architecture as they search for wildlife.
Just east of the Tottenham Hale tube station, a haven for waterfowl and waders alike exists in the form of Walthamstow Wetlands. With 520 acres to explore, this sprawling expanse is one of the largest wetland preserves on the continent of Europe, with no shortage of mammals, birds, insects, and plants to encounter during a visit. Upon arrival, visitors are certain to spot common water birds like cormorants, tufted ducks, and mute swans, while lucky birders may be able to catch a glimpse of a Eurasian oystercatcher, great crested grebe, or ringed plover—and that’s barely scratching the surface of all the avian biodiversity that this prestigious preserve has to offer.
Crossness Nature Reserve
Measuring in at roughly 63 acres, the Crossness Nature Reserve offers a glimpse into the pristine wetlands that once dominated the eastern reaches of modern-day London. The park is best known for its wide array of waterfowl ranging from wigeon to gadwall, while raptors like barn owls and peregrine falcons can also be found within its borders. Though avian life is abundant throughout Crossness Nature Reserve, the park is no stranger to mammals, and it even serves as one of London’s most suitable habitats for the water vole, a tiny burrowing rodent that’s seen major population decline over the past decades.
In addition to being one of the largest patches of common land in the nation, London’s Wormwood Scrubs are a veritable paradise for native passerines. Close to 100 different avian varieties have been recorded within its boundaries, with classic species like stonechats, chiffchaffs, and white wagtails thriving throughout the area. Native birds abound across the park, but one introduced species—the rose-ringed parakeet, to be precise—is also a common sight, with the opportunity to spot several thousand individuals flocking in one night. Beyond birds, the Wormwood Scrubs are also a top-tier herping destination, equipped with common lizards and several varieties of frog and toad.