Enjoying Birds in the City

Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Cercis canadensis, Lemont, Illinois
Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Cercis canadensis, Lemont, Illinois

Written by Robin Irizarry, Audubon Mid-Atlantic Delaware River Watershed Program Manager

With block after block of concrete, cities can often feel devoid of nature. If we take a moment, though, we can often find pockets of untended open space nearby. And with some teamwork and imagination, we can transform into spaces that meet the needs of people and wildlife. When we purposefully convert more and more of these seemingly unconnected spaces into colorful gardens of native plants, the overall effect creates a network of flowers and greenery that can support people, migrating birds, and pollinator insects while brightening neighborhoods.

Though it might seem like you only see sparrows and pigeons around the City, the truth is that all kinds of bright, colorful birds visit Philly on their way to and from far off places like South and Central America and the Caribbean. The diversity of bird species that migrate through Philadelphia matches the city’s diversity of people. Some stick around to build their nests and raise their young while others move further north. All of them are looking to eat lots of insects to gain the energy they need for flying and feeding their young chicks.

With May as peak spring migration here, it’s a great time to see beautiful birds like the brightly colored Yellow warbler, the orange and black Baltimore oriole, and the Rose-breasted grosbeak. Cardinals, robins and catbirds can be heard singing and calling to each other to attract a mate. Throughout the summer swallows and chimney swifts will fly back and forth overhead, catching insects right out of the sky. 

You can see all of these wonderful birds at places like the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge in Eastwick or the Discovery Center in Strawberry Mansion, and there are great people working there who are excited to help you find and enjoy them. Still, if you pay close enough attention, you really don’t need to leave your neighborhood to find and enjoy some of these birds as they pass through.

Audubon Mid-Atlantic, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, Thomas Jefferson University, and other partners have been teaming up to help bring these experiences to neighborhoods across Southwest Philly by planting pollinator gardens on vacant lots and neighborhood parks. We’re excited to get to work together with neighbors to brighten up these spaces for the benefit of birds and people.

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation.

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