Then we noticed one of said species roosting beneath a bench on our own balcony. I’ve read the gestation period for a pigeon is about 18 days, but we had to wait a couple months before our guests flew the coop and we were fully able to utilise our BBQ.
I actually think the pigeon is underrated (did you know the male and female share nesting duties and live out their days in monogamous bliss?). But Amsterdam’s avian life is so much more. I barely have to leave my house to see them: a grey heron had found a gap in the spikes on our neighbor’s balcony when I opened my curtains one early evening. He probably flew in from the nearby Albert Cuyp market, where sightings of the species picking through fish or enjoying the view atop a lamppost are almost a daily closing-time occurrence. I hear the herons also hang out in the Oosterpark.
Parakeets and starlings
Then there are the parakeets, some 3,700 of the rose-ringed variety that are said to have descended from released pets and have been living in the city since the 1980s. Usually visible throughout the Vondelpark, I’ve also spotted them in my old De Pijp backyard.
And although I’m unclear why De Pijp seems to be avian central, one of the most amazing sights is the starlings. We’re not talking one, but thousands. In early evenings throughout the year they take to the skies above De Pijp and, after circling the neighborhood in a well-choreographed swarm, roost by the thousands in certain trees usually found in Sarphatipark, the Oosterpark or even my old courtyard (until a neighbor, understandably, cut down the ivy that seemed to draw them to the tree). Although their droppings are a nuisance and their song - when in the tens of thousands - sounds like something out of a Hitchcock movie, these murmurations make it worth keeping your eyes peeled to the sky as the sun starts to go down.
Photo: Kitty Terwolbeck
But I’m just a happy casual observer. For those who want more expert avian advice, why not take a professional birding tour? FlevoBirdwatching offers scheduled or customized tours in and around the city, while Birding Holland goes so far as to provide a Schiphol airport layover tour—perfect for those on the fly.
Column first published in A-MagHeader image: Branko Collin via flickr