The parks, reservoirs, rooftops and gardens of London – here defined as the area within 20 miles of St Paul's Cathedral – have a surprisingly rich avifauna, including a healthy population of one of Britain's rarest breeders, the black redstart. The region also has a remarkable list of rarities – in recent years Canary Wharf has proven to be a magnet for vagrants, while one of the very few British records of Tengmalm's owl hails from Plaistow – an unfortunate bird stoned to death by local urchins in 1877. Some species, like the peregrine falcon, black-headed gull and ring-necked parakeet, have seen their fortunes soar over recent decades; others, such as house sparrow, have suffered a population collapse, while as recently as a century ago, the London area had breeding populations of birds such as wryneck and red-backed shrike, which are now nationally extinct.
The status, distribution and history of every species on the regional list is discussed in rich detail in Birds of London, the first comprehensive avifauna for the London area ever published. The County Avifauna series provides detailed information on the range and status of bird species at county level. Areas covered in the series so far include Norfolk, Suffolk, Dorset, the Shetland Islands, Leicestershire and Rutland, Essex and Gwent. Each title covers all species on the county list, with a breakdown of rarity records, and there are introductory sections describing the area's ecology, climate, weather patterns, its ornithological history and conservation record, as well as an in-depth review of the best sites to visit.
"This traditional avifauna documents all 369 species ever recorded in London and its environs, a 20-mile (32-km) radius from St Paul’s Cathedral. This reporting area, used by London Natural History Society, includes Greater London and considerable areas of Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey. Thus a much wider range of habitats are covered than might be expected in the city, including farmland and numerous reservoirs and wetland sites at former gravel pits in these surrounding counties.
Photographs, confined to a 32-page section, include key habitats and notable recent birds. The species texts, sourced from London Bird Reports, are divided into historical (pre-1900), 20th and 21th century. This works well for rarer birds and the accounts are detailed and interestingly written, although coverage of surrounding counties may not be comprehensive. For common species, distribution maps, population estimates and trends would have been valuable. We will have to wait for the forthcoming London Atlas for these."
- Linda Smith, BTO book Reviews
Calendar of notable birds
Habitats and geography
Important naturalists and ornithologists in London
Green spaces in London
Storks and ibises
Rails and crakes
Swallows and martins
Chats and flycatchers
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Andrew Self is an author and photographer from London. The former editor of the London Bird Report, Andrew has been London Bird Recorder since 2000 and a member of the London Rarities Committee since 1997. He has birded extensively around the world as well as recording the birdlife of his local patch, Brent Reservoir.