I have been receiving emails from my readers asking about birding in Rome, Lazio. After doing some research I came across a book called “Where to Watch Birds in World Cities” by Paul Milne. One of the chapters talks about birds of Rome. I got in touch with the author and he told me that Rome can be a great place to see some interesting birds.
A great advantage of birding in Rome is, of course, the stunning backdrop of the ancient ruins and buildings, so you do sightseeing and birdwatching rolled into one. You don’t just see a Yellow-legged Gull, you see it on The Milvian Bridge that was constructed by Gaius Claudius Nero in 206 BC; you have the privilege of observing Hooded Crows sitting on the Aurelian Walls erected by ancient Romans in 275 AD.
There are many parks in Rome that birds frequent: Villa Ada, Villa Doria Pamphili, Parco degli Acquedotti. There is even a Nature Reserve Valle dei Casali in Rome where you can observe the Barn owl. Paul Milne says that his favourite birding places in the Italian capital are the Maccarese Ponds and the Pineto di Castel Fusano on the coast as well as the Parco dell’Appia Antica.
Spring and autumn are the best seasons for admiring Roman birds. “Try to get out for dawn as most birds get active between dawn and mid-morning”, recommends Paul. “Evening can also be good but there is usually a lot more people around so the birds get disturbed”.
There are many species to be seen but it is the Mediterranean species that hold most interest such as Black Kite, Subalpine Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Italian Sparrow, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Pallid Swift and Penduline Tit.
Milne says that birdwatchers should keep an eye out for rare passage migrants at the coastal wetlands such as Little Crake, Temmincks Stint or Marsh Sandpiper. “Look for any agitated groups of small birds such as tits and wrens which might be mobbing a roosting Scops Owl.”
At the Villa Pamphili and Villa Borghese the curious can see… noisy green parrots. “They are feral populations of domesticated ring-necked Parakeets which are an Indian species that seem to have adapted to life in Rome”, says Paul. “This is a phenomenon observed in several temperate zone cities where the winters are not too cold and exotic plants are present”.
Some wonderful birds can be spotted right in the middle of ancient Rome. “I remember seeing a distant stork soaring above the Ancient Forum, and thinking it looked like a Black Stork but I was on the far side of the Piazza Venezia, so I thought I would dash across to the Forum and setup my telescope,” tells Milne. “I should have realised that crossing the Piazza Venezia with all that traffic is no easy task. I would say that the stork had reached the Alps by the time I got across the square!”
You can buy “Where to Watch Birds in World Cities” by Paul Milne on Amazon.
Paul Milne is a lifelong birder. He is editor of Irish Bird Report, and columnist for Wings, the quarterly magazine of Birdwatch Ireland. He lives in Dublin, Ireland.
Photos by Laurent Lebaux/Flickr, Rashuli/Wikimedia Commons, JJ Harrison/Wikimedia Commons, luciano-53/Flickr.