Buildings are habitats. Considering that London has also been greening up it’s buildings over the last 15 years, they have become far more important for wildlife – and especially one of London’s rarer birds – the Black redstart.
Birds and buildings – the Black redstart
Anyone familiar with my work over the last 20 or so years in London will know my association with the black redstart. It was in fact, how i became involved in green roofs. Although it used to known as the bomb site bird, taking up residence amongst the rubble of the blitz, it has become the ‘green’ roof bird. In the early 2000 green roofs were a rarity. The Black redstart was the driving force for their uptake in the capital in the early days.
Black redstarts nest in buildings and use green roofs for foraging. Back in 2013, I was luck enough to film a pair using a green roof to collect food for their young. The nest was somewhere in a construction site some 300 metres away.
Therefore, this bird is a perfect emblem, for a National Park City, that should look beyond the landscapes at ground level and embrace, the thousands of metre that have already been installed in London. And it should be promoting their use, for people as well as for birds like like this beauty.
Birds and buildings – Pied wagtail
Pied wagtails have a liking for roofs all types too. More commonly seen by most people in car parks, they are birds of buildings too. I have watch them come into roost at Terminal 3 at Heathrow. There used to be a building in the City that in winter used to draw in over 100 of these birds. They were heading to a courtyard with climbers where they roosted. Another example of birds making use of green infrastructure. In this instance vertical green walls.
I have also seen large groups of Pied wagtail in early spring on green roofs. On one roof, near the Guildhall, I once saw 25 feeding amongst the sedums and wildflowers. The two pictures of the Pied wagtails were taken on one of my favourite green roofs in London at 7 More London.
Birds and buildings – Grey wagtail
Most people associate Grey wagtails with fast flowing streams. In London they are found along our waterways but they are also found on buildings. In my experience a large majority of them probably make their nests on buildings. Walking near Smithfield market, I once came across a pair nesting in the corner of a building. This year, in May, I watched a pair hawking for flies at the pond by Guildhall. Both the male and females, once their beaks were full, headed high to a neighbouring building. Surely there was a clutch of hungry mouths to feed in a hole in a wall?
This picture was taken on a paved roof in the City of London. I have seen them feeding on green roofs too.
Wild London is definitely not restricted to the city’s green spaces. Buildings are thriving venues for a range of wildlife. From the Feral pigeon to the lowly spider, we must not forget that bricks and mortar are part of the ecology of the city. And if we can green more buildings, that will benefit both people and wildlife.