City Birds

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It’s common to associate birds with wild landscapes. But high school junior Amy Kennedy is attracted to the city birds that share her urban environment.

When most people think of city birds, they probably think of pigeons, crows and geese, birds notorious for their “bad behavior”: stealing your French fries, crowing obnoxiously in your backyard, turning your local pond into a sewage.

These birds are ubiquitous in almost every city because of their successful strategy of eating human food scraps.

But not all city birds are scavengers. Many eat berries, insects and seeds, their natural food. Though they are generally drabby-looking and on the smaller side, these are the birds that really amaze me. They are Mother Nature’s ambassadors, thriving in man-made jungles where concrete has replaced open fields, buildings have supplanted bushes, and electrical poles outnumber trees.

Black phoebes are prevalent throughout the Bay Area and are black with a white belly. I hear one outside my window almost every morning. I like to think it is telling me, “Wake up,” in its two-note dawn chorus.


Northern mockingbirds are also very vocal. They are named after their ability to mimic noises, including other bird calls, and as a nod to city life, they have been known to mock car alarms.

Mourning doves are another of my favorite city-dwellers. I was introduced to these sleek, gray birds when a pair nested in my backyard. I hear their mournful calls on most evenings.

Now, as I watch and listen for birds, I find them everywhere, hopping across city sidewalks, perched on high telephone wires, hidden and chirping in the trees.

To many, a bird’s chirp is part of a city’s white noise, something rarely welcomed, something rarely regarded. Most people may not care to notice city birds, yet there is such diversity and beauty in them.

Their very presence reminds me that even in a landscape smothered in cement, nature always persists.

With a Perspective, this is Amy Kennedy.

Amy Kennedy is a junior at Santa Clara High School. Her Perspective was produced as part of Youth Takeover week at KQED.