Birds of Moscow - Great spotted woodpecker
Great spotted woodpecker

Birds of Moscow city parks

Despite the rapid rate of urban development, Moscow is still a very green city. It is surrounded by large parks and tracts of forest on the fringes of the city, and its center is dotted with lush green city parks. Many of the parks are also historical sites, established in the former residences of Russian nobility. 

The parks are home to a few species of mammals and a wide variety of birds. The best Moscow parks for birdwatching are the Botanical Garden, Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory), Kuzminsky Park and Estate, Kuskovo, and Kolomenskoye. I spent a few days birdwatching in Moscow’s parks and here are the birds I saw.

Birds of Moscow: Big tit
Big tit

Forest birds 

The forested part of the parks never failed to turn up the usual species: Great tit, Blue tit, Black-capped chikadeeEurasian tree sparrow, House sparrow, Eurasian nuthatch, and Hooded Crow.

Birds of Moscow: European nuthatch
European nuthatch
Birds of Moscow: Blue tit
Blue tit
Birds of Moscow: Fieldfare
Fieldfare

One morning I discovered a small creek in Kuzminsky park that was popular with birds, and after sitting quietly at that creek I saw more birds in about 30 minutes that did in a full day walking around the forest.

There were Chaffinch, European goldfinch,  European greenfinch, White wagtail, Common swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Flycatcher, Common starling, Common Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song thrush, European robin and Blackcap. I even caught a glimpse of a Common Cuckoo and the rare Black woodpecker.

Birds of Moscow - European robin
European robin
Birds of Moscow - European goldfinch
European goldfinch

Waterbirds

Birds of Moscow - Kuzminsky pond
Kuzminki pond

The ponds at Kuzminsky park turned up two species listed as ‘Threatened’ in Moscow Red Book. Black-headed gull and Common tern. Both species, though present in small numbers, seemed to make a rather good living on the abundant fish in the ponds.

I was told that spring came late this year and the gulls turned up a week too early, while the ponds in the park were still frozen. Hungry, the birds kept flying over the ponds and the surrounding city blocks screaming in incomprehension and desperation, until the weather turned and the ponds started to thaw.

Birds of Moscow - Black-headed gulls
Black-headed gull
Birds of Moscow - Common tern
Common tern

The most common waterbird in Moscow, however, is the Mallard duck. They can be found in virtually any park in the city that has a pond.

Right in the city, there is another park – Chistie Prudy. It is a good place to see the Ruddy shell ducks

Ruddy shell duck at Chisti Prudi
Ruddy shell duck at Chisti Prudy
Birds of Moscow - Ruddy shell duck
Ruddy shell duck

While Patriarshiye Prudy park is the only park in Moscow where I found the Mute swans. The swans used to be common in Moscow, but over the last few years, they all but disappeared.

Mute swans

Birds of the fields

The more open, grassy areas in the parks are home to a whole new suite of birds. Primarily the open habitat is the domain of the warblers: Wood warbler, Willow warbler, Icterine Warbler, Garden warbler, Common whitethroatBlackcapBlyth’s reed warbler and Garden warbler.

Birds of Moscow - Garden warbler
Garden warbler
Birds of Moscow - Blackcap
Blackcap
Birds of Moscow - Icerine warbler
Icterine warbler

The boundary where the open habitat meets the edge of the forest was good for the Spotted flycatcher, Tree pipit, and Yellowhammer.

Birds of Moscow - Yellowhammer
Yellowhammer

I found a nest of Red-backed shrike in the bushes and watched the family of shrikes keeping busy feeding their almost grown chick.

Red-backed shrike
Birds of Moscow - Red-backed shrike
Red-backed shrike

Birds of prey

Birds of prey are harder to spot in the city. I have only seen a Northern Goshawk in Kuzminsky park. The bird flew very low across the path and disappeared into the forest. 

I also found their nest – an impressive structure made out of large sticks, sitting in the fork of a pine tree. The forest floor below was littered with half-eaten pigeon carcasses, bird bones, whitewash and shed feathers of the goshawks themselves. 

Birds of Moscow - hawk next
Gashawk’s nest

In the last few years, more and more birds of prey have been popping up in the city. Eurasian sparrowhawks, Common kestrels, Eurasian hobbies, Northern goshawks and Red-footed falcons are all frequently spotted in Moscow parks.

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