As well as giving its name to a hit song of the early 1980s, the city of Vienna also hits the right notes with visiting birdwatchers
The city of Vienna in Austria has much to offer the visiting birdwatcher
VIENNA IS PROBABLY more famous for the Ultravox tune, the Viennese Waltz and those lovely Viennese whirl biscuits than for urban birding. But do not be fooled. A glance at a map will show you that it is not only a city filled with woods and other green spaces, but also a city literally surrounded by forests. All that woodland is frequented by an often unseen army of woodpeckers, tits, thrushes and raptors that, during the summer months, are joined by flycatchers and warblers. Practically every green space within the city has an element of woodland that can be populated by Great, Blue and Marsh Tits, plentiful Nuthatches and upwards of seven woodpecker species. This is despite Vienna being Austria’s capital city, with a metropolitan population of 2.6 million people. Far from being a city just filled with tourists, it really does seem to have a thriving bird population, too. The Danube runs through the city and is a very important area for nature, in particular, the stretch right in the middle of the city where the river is split in two by a wooded island. It is there that Fieldfares nest, while Beaver and Otter roam. The point where the island divides the river has become a rarity hotspot, especially during the autumn and winter. All the diver species have occurred, as well as Pomarine Skua, Kittiwake and even a recent Sabine’s Gull. These sightings were remarkable given that Vienna is more than 1,000km away from the northern seas where those birds would normally be found. Walking around the Viennese parks you will notice a lot of crows. The city is the hybridization zone of the Hooded Crow, whose main distribution is more easterly, and Carrion Crow to the west. This means that most of the crows that you will see will be hybrids between the two. Most look like Hoodies, although throughout the course of a day, you could easily see 50 shades of grey: from not quite black to not quite full-blown Hooded Crow. There are several spots to make a beeline for if you want to spend some time birding. Augarten is a large wooded park that, during the summer, holds the classic birds to be seen elsewhere in the city, including Blackcap, Great, Blue and Marsh Tits, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper and the possibility of Great, Middle Spotted, Greyheaded and Black Woodpeckers. There are two imposing towers in the park that used to be anti-plane missile launch pads from World War II. Nowadays, they are derelict and recently have been patronised by passing Peregrines that use them as lookouts for pigeons. Despite the many church spires and high-rise buildings there are no breeding Peregrines in the city. The main reason is that they were driven out due to poisoning and hunting in the past. Despite there being no regular Peregrines to be seen, you may have a better chance of seeing their cousins the Saker Falcon on the outskirts of the city, where a few pairs breed. These falcons, along with Eastern Imperial and White-tailed Eagles, are sometimes seen within the city limits, drawn in by the greenery and availability of food. Pratar Park, lying adjacent to the Danube, is an attractive long and narrow wooded park containing a long, slim wood-fringed lake. The park eventually joins into a much bigger area that is one of the largest wooded areas found in the city. The usual Vienna woodland suspects can
be discovered here, plus the city’s only established colony of Mandarins, that apparently never leave the capital. Austrian birders believe their country has the least number of established alien species compared with other western European countries. They proudly state that they have no Ruddy Shelduck, Egyptian Geese, parakeets or, God forbid, Grey Squirrels. As intimated earlier, almost any park in Vienna can result in good birding. One such site to single out is Weinerberg Teich in the south of the city. It is a flooded extraction pit that has been recognised as an important wildlife area by the city authorities, despite the large number of recreational users. During the summer, Great Reed Warblers sing from the reed-fringed edges and a couple of pairs of Great Crested Grebe raise their young. If you are really lucky you might spy the breeding pair of Little Bittern, that secrete themselves in the reeds. The surrounding bushes are the summer home to Lesser Whitethroat, Nightingale and also Icterine Warbler. Perhaps one of the best places to visit is Lobau at the south-eastern edge of the city and part of the Donau-auen National Park. Dubbed Vienna’s Jungle, the park lies alongside the Danube and can easily be reached by public transport. It is a floodplain that has large areas of reedbed with some wet woodland. Watch out for Penduline Tit and Bearded Tit and, in the wet scrub, secretive River Warblers sing. Meanwhile, in the wet woodlands Collared Flycatcher, Golden Oriole, Cuckoo, Black Kite, Hobby and Honey Buzzard all breed.
ê WOODED AREAS Throughout the Vienna area, there are parks and woodland sites, filled with birds! DAVID SAYS Look beyond what the tourists see and you will find birds Marsh Tit Great Reed Warbler
Middle Spotted Woodpecker