The Landscape Guide

Bird habitat improvement by the Thames in Central London

See index page for Chelsea to Tower Thames Landscape Strategy

Andrew Self in The Birds of London Thames as 'London's best-known geographical feature' and makes the following points about the geography of bird habitat availability in Central London (p.17ff):

  1. The Thames has been extensively embanked for much of its length in London since the Victorian era. It was once a much broader, shallower river with extensive marshlands; at high tide, its shores reached five times their present width.
  2. The extensive marshes that bordered the Thames have either totally disappeared or are a mere fraction of what they used to be.
  3. The water quality of the river has, however improved markedly since the 1960s due to improvments in sewage treatment, and this should improve further if the proposal for a Thames Tideway Tunnel... goes ahead. Fifty years ago, the river was esentially fish-less in central London... Improved fish stocks have had a direct effect on fishing birds, with Grey Heron nesting along or nearby the river and Cormorants fishing regularly even in central London.
  4. Gardens provide the largest habitat in the suburbs.
  5. Probably the most overlooked habitat in the London Area is buildings. While many are inhospitable for birds, others provide places to breed for some of the city's rarets species, such as Peregrines and Black Redstarts.

Self's comments provide a good starting point for policies to improve habitat conditions for the Thames' bird population, to benefit ornithological biodiversity, ornithologists, visitors and residents. The strategy must be to improve habitat conditions: birds need more to eat and more places to nest.

Common bird species found by the River Thames in Central London include:

Phalacrocorax carbo - Great cormorant
Larus argentatus - Herring gull
Larus canus - Common gull
Larus fuscus - Lesser black-backed gull
Larus ridibundus - Common black-headed gull
Larus marinus - Greater black-backed gull
Anas platyrhynchos - Mallard
Columba livia - Rock dove
Columba palumbus - Common wood-pigeon
Apus apus - Common swift
Corvus corone - Carrion crow
Sturnus vulgaris - Common starling
Passer domesticus - House sparrow
London Thames birds: occasional visitors
Phalacocorax aristotelis - Shag
Tachybaptus ruficollis - Little grebe
Podiceps cristatus - Great crested grebe
Ardea cinerea - Grey heron
Larus minutus - Little gull
Rissa tridactyla - Black-legged kittiwake
Sterna hirundo - Common tern
Anas acuta - Northern pintail
Aythya ferina - Common pochard
Aythya fuligula - Tufted duck
Branta canadensis - Canada goose
Cygnus olor - Mute swan
Fulica atra - Common coot
Gallinula chloropus - Common moorhen
Haematopus ostralegus - Eurasian oystercatcher
Tringa hypoleucos - Common sandpiper
Carduelis carduelis - European goldfinch
Streptopelia turtur - European turtle-dove
Motacilla cinerea - Grey wagtail
Pied wagtail (Motacilla alba - White wagtail)
Phoenicurus ochruros - Black redstart
Turdus merula - Eurasian blackbird