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Article: Birding in Prague

The city of Prague is a very rich mosaic of different habitat types. This variety is due to diverse urban habitats and the special configuration of the Prague basin and the Vltava valley. Apart from various types of built-up space, this relatively small area includes also thermophilic steppe formations, meadows, arable land, parks of different size and even places with continuous woods. Naturally, this habitat diversity brings diversity in bird species. So far, about 130 species have been confirmed to breed in Prague, other species winter there or can be found during migration.

Water birds

The ice-free Vltava river in Prague is one of the most important wintering grounds of water birds in the Czech Republic. Right in the city centre, e.g. close to the Charles bridge, numerous flocks of Mute Swans, Cormorants, Pochards, Tufted Ducks and Coots can be observed from November till March. To see some more, it is recommended to visit the most interesting part of the Vltava river in Prague-Trója, in the vicinity of the zoo. Besides the above mentioned species, some rarer winter visitors can be found here, such as Little Grebes, Moorhens, Goldeneyes, Goosanders or Teals. Moreoever, the place is a roosting site of the Cormorants. Black-headed Gulls are abundant here but Common Gulls may also be observed. With some luck it is possible to spot a Kingfisher.

Built-up areas

Many bird species can be found even in the city centre, in almost continuously built-up areas. Most of these species use buildings for breeding. Kestrel is very common in Prague, nesting in churches, numerous dormers but also in flowerpots on the balconies. Similar places are used by the Jackdaw. Quite recently, a pair of the Peregrine has nested on the Týn cathedral at the Old Town square. Fissures under roofs are ideal shelters for Swifts. Of the passerines, House Martins, Barn Swallows, Black Redstarts and the increasingly rare House Sparrows use houses in Prague for nesting. More birds can be found in places with at least minimum vegetation and gardens, such as the originally Mediterranean species Collared Dove and Serin.

Parks

Probably the richest bird communities can be found in numerous Prague parks. Many of them are easily accessible from the city centre, such as Královská obora (Stromovka), Petřín and Hvězda. They host an array of forest bird species, including hollow-nesters. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, but also Grey-headed and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers can be mentioned, as well as the Woodpigeon whose numbers in the centre of Prague have been increasing. Besides the Great and Blue Tits, the most numerous species are Chaffinch and warblers – Chiffchaff and Blackcap, but also less common Icterine, Willow and Wood Warblers can be found. Of the thrushes, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Redstart are most abundant. In places with sufficient amount of bushes, the Nightingale song can be heard. Passerine communities include also some other species, such as Spotted Flycatcher, Starling, Dunnock, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Penduline Tit and the increasingly common Jay. Of the seed-eating birds, Serin, Greenfinch, Hawfinch and Bullfinch.
For those who can spend at least half a day walking around Prague‘s nature, we recommend to visit the valleys of Divoká Šárka, Prokopské údolí or the Průhonice park. Besides the abundant occurrence of the above mentioned species, many other interesting birds can be found in these larger woods, such as Black Woodpecker, Cuckoo, Goldcrest or White-collared Flycatcher.

Special tips for birdwatchers from the British Isles

Many bird species which are absent from the British Isles can be observed easily right in the Prague city. The Serin and the Black Redstart, rarely seen in Great Britain, are found in any housing estate or area with sufficient vegetation. The White Wagtail occurring there is the subspecies alba which has a different plumage than the island subspecies yarrellii. To see Marsh Warblers, which are rare in Britain, we recommend to visit the zoo area. In May and June, it is easy to catch their diverse song coming from dense vegetation on the banks of the Vltava river in the neighbourhood of the zoo. Other species can be found in larger parks, such as Petřín, Královská obora or Krčský les. British birdwatchers will certainly be glad to see a White-Collared Flycatcher, Short-toed Treecreeper or less common woodpeckers – Grey-headed and Middle Spotted. Woods in the periphery of Prague (such as Prokopské údolí) host even the Black Woodpecker.

Ondřej Sedláček

30.07.2004
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