Some birds of St. James’s Park, London
By: Pat Coate
While in England traveling with my daughter we spent a day in London. We took the train into Waterloo Station and spent the day walking all over taking in the sights – Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The Eye, Piccadilly Circus, the National Gallery, and Trafaglar Square. Despite a February visit, London was filled with tourists and vacationing English families (schools were on break). Despite the crowds, London’s parks were full of wintering waterfowl side by side with the captive exotic waterfowl. These pictures were all taken at St. James’s Park.
King James I, in the early 1600s, was the first to keep exotic waterfowl in the park. White Pelicans arrived in 1664 as a gift from the Russian ambassador. The pelicans are looked after by wildlife specialists, receive a daily feeding, and are quite friendly. Other exotic waterfowl we saw included Black Swans and Red-crested Pochard.
There were lots of wild ducks on the lake of St. James’s Park including the Tufted Duck shown above. A Tufted Duck was seen in Western NY (Buffalo) last year providing a nice rarity for our area.
The Common Pochard is similar to the Redhead duck seen in the U.S. Major differences are the bill (Common Pochard has black at base of the bill) and eye color (Redhead has a yellow eye).
The Grey Heron is another bird very similar to one we have in the U.S. It is slightly smaller than our Great Blue Heron and lacks the rufous coloring (thigh area) seen in the Great Blue.
It was very interesting to see that there were a lot of birds very similar to our U.S. species and at first I thought most were the same. It was like a game of “what are the differences in these pictures” when comparing the species side-by-side in North American and European field guides. It seems clear that these birds share a branch in the family tree.
Occasionally the North American and European species were identical, like the Common Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, and Herring Gull.
There were also several birds that were wild but clearly not native to England. The above Egyptian Geese and Ring-necked Parakeets fall into this category. The goose does not have its wings clipped as evidenced by being able to fly high up into a tree, and the parakeets were also flying freely in the park.
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