Urban Birdwatching

(click on pictures to enlarge)

1424717752392Every few days there’s a raucous squawking outside our window and we see these green parakeets picking berries or bursting open pomegranates on the trees outside. It still takes me by surprise as seeing parrots in the wild is something I associate more with India or Africa than with Rome. I first saw parrots here on the Via Appia Antica where there’s a flock of them close to the Catacombs. I assumed that someone had once let loose pet parrots and that they had survived and multiplied. I’ve heard that one can also see them in the gardens of the Villa Pamphili and the Villa Borghese but to see them so close to buildings is surprising. I’m not sure if there’s a shortage of food or if they’ve just adapted to urban life and are spreading.

1424718755673There are lots of birds in Rome. We see swallows swooping down in the mornings which is a real pleasure when its warm enough to have breakfast on the balcony. Starlings cover the trees near Termini Station in the Fall filling the air with their chirping at dusk (and leaving a helluva mess below for the city to clean up!). It’s very pleasant hearing birdsong and seeing birds flying about but the seagulls have become a problem. No longer do you have to go to the seaside to see gulls skimming for fish along a lonely coastline. They’ve all come into the city. Rome has a communal garbage system and I guess they have easy pickings in the large bins on every street. You see them atop the statues and monuments making a mess and quite unafraid of people walking by.

1424716409097Every year, towards the end of January, the Pope would release a couple of doves in Piazza San Pietro as a sign of peace. Last year, no sooner had two white doves been released when a seagull attacked one and a crow set upon the other. People watched with horrified fascination as the poor doves were viciously attacked. Animal Rights activists pleaded for the practice to be stopped so it didn’t happen this year. However, it’s not only gentle, peaceful doves who get brutalized. Last week we were in front of the Palazzo Montecittorio (Parliament building) when all of a sudden we heard a party of American schoolgirls screaming and shrieking. We went over to see what had happened and saw two seagulls viciously tearing a pigeon apart and fighting for the choicest pieces. Luckily, it was well dead and mostly consumed by the time we saw it as it was not a pretty sight. Interesting that we should have come upon this outside the Parliament building and perhaps an apt metaphor for what must go on inside!

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