BBC Wildlife Magazine - - WILD DECEMBER -

Tawny owl

Mot­tled red­dish-brown and with a ring of dark feath­ers sur­round­ing a paler face con­tain­ing dark-coloured eyes, surely there is no mis­tak­ing the com­mon­est of all Bri­tish owls. Tra­di­tion­ally a wood­land species, tawny owls have colonised any town and city cen­tres with large parks, gar­dens and church­yards as they hold their ter­ri­tory through the win­ter months.

Pied wag­tail

Our only pied bird with a long tail, which it con­stantly bobs, the pied wag­tail is a fa­mil­iar vis­i­tor to towns and cities dur­ing the win­ter months. On the con­stant search for in­ver­te­brates, males de­fend a win­ter ter­ri­tory be­fore then gath­er­ing at favoured ur­ban lo­ca­tions to com­mu­nally roost for the night.


This dumpy slate-grey wa­ter­bird with a white bill and fore­head is a com­mon sight across any town and city park with a de­cent-sized pond or lake. In win­ter, coots gather to­gether on the larger wa­ter bod­ies, with pop­u­la­tions in south­ern and east­ern Eng­land often boosted by con­ti­nen­tal coots from across the North Sea.


Is there a more un­mis­tak­able wild an­i­mal in our towns and cities? Prob­a­bly not. Only mov­ing into our ur­ban ar­eas dur­ing the in­ter-war pe­riod, leafy sub­urbs and pub­lic parks proved the ideal habi­tat for this canny op­por­tunist. Most often spot­ted at dawn and dusk, win­ter is when the blood-cur­dling screams are heard, which sig­nal the start of the breed­ing sea­son.

Tor­toise­shell but­ter­fly

A won­der­fully fa­mil­iar sight, with its scal­loped wing edg­ings and dis­tinc­tive mark­ings, the ‘small tort’ is one of a se­lect group of but­ter­flies to reg­u­larly over­win­ter in the UK as an adult. Often choos­ing roofs, out­houses and other hu­man habi­ta­tions to see out the win­ter, the cam­ou­flaged un­der­wings of a hi­ber­nat­ing adult in an un­heated park shel­ter can often be tricky to spot.

Tor­toise­shells hiber­nate in un­heated park build­ings.

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