London is inundated with life. At first glance most of us would deduce it’s only human city-slickers and scruffy pigeons scurrying about the capital but strangely, most of us would be mistaken. There is actually a vast array of other creatures stealthily going about their daily business, often hiding in plain sight. From armoured sex addicts to the fastest animal on the planet, meeting your real neighbours in London may be a startling experience.
The first surprise comes in the form of the Peregrine Falcon, a predatory bird that makes a meal out of London’s plump pigeons ‒ usually after snatching them mid-flight. To do this, Peregrines rocket downwards from breathtaking heights, striking unsuspecting pigeons at speeds of up to 230mph. This easily makes them the fastest animal on the planet. In 2001 it was confirmed that Peregrine Falcons were breeding in London using tall buildings as nest sites in place of their more traditional cliff top sites out in the sticks. Peregrines also seem to be fairly sophisticated with one of the best places to get a sighting being just outside of the Tate modern.
A pigeon and a peregrin have a tussle in mid-air
Next up is the ring-neck parakeet. With populations most likely originating from pet trade escapees, colonies of parakeets have set themselves up in every borough of London. Whilst their exotic appearance suggests they would perhaps be suited to warmer climates the ring-neck is actually native to the foothills of the Himalayas. This means it has no trouble surviving the Big Smoke’s winter freeze.
Finally, the male Stag beetle; Britain’s largest insect and a heavily armoured local that’s permanently on the lookout for good time. Whilst they appear pretty ferocious, most of their weaponry is a really just a show for the fairer sex. Sadly, since the 1940’s numbers of stag beetles in London have been dropping steadily due to the ‘cleaning up’ of dead wood from parks, however there are still strongholds in parts of Lewisham and Richmond.
For anyone who’s interested in finding a few more surprises, a late night urban stroll or an eagle-eyed wander around one of the capital’s many parks would no doubt reveal far more covert citizens …
- Stag beetle grubs spend an astonishing 7 years gnawing on rotten wood before transfomring into adults.
- It’s not just London that has hidden wildlife. Glasgow’s got mink, Manchester has orchids and Liverpool has The Beatles.
- Want to help the Peregrine – the London Peregrine Partnership is helping to ensure the breeding success of the magnificent bird.
- Get involved with wildlife in London with London Wildlife Trust – loads of great things to do.