Shrikes start building nests at Ostankino Park and VDNKh

Shrikes start building nests at Ostankino Park and VDNKh
Birds fly over to Moscow from warmer countries for summer to brood.

Birds entered in Moscow’s Red Data Book started to nest at Ostankino Park and the VDNKh backwater area. A few days ago, shrikes came flying from North Africa for summer. Shrikes feel at home in this area of the city and have already started building nests.

Shrikes are small birds; they are members of the order Passeriformes. They are not longer than 18 centimetres, with a wingspread of up to 31 centimetres. The males’ distinctive feature is a grey head with a bright black stripe, which looks like a mask, and wings with a reddish tint. Shrikes spend the winter in North Africa, flying off to Russia for summer to brood and feed their young birds.

Shrikes were placed in Moscow’s Red Data Book in 2001, but since then, the population of these birds has increased, reaching a safe level by now.

In addition to shrikes, birds of prey have also started to nest in the park, including hobby falcons, a small species which has a small population. According to ornithologists, there are no more than 15 pairs of these birds in Moscow. The elegant falcons with long pointed wings, wedge-shaped tails and white “cheeks” contrasting with a black “moustache,” chose Ostankino Park, having been attracted by its mosaic landscape where forests alternate with open spaces.

Another rare falcon species nesting at VDNKh is the kestrel. The bird is known for its ability to hover at 10 metres to 20 metres above the ground looking for prey. As soon as the kestrel sees it, it dives fast and catches the prey, dropping its speed slightly just above the ground.

Black woodpeckers are large forest birds – members of the order Piciformes – who are also attracted by parks in the northeast of the city. They have black feathers and red caps on their heads and live a solitary life, only forming pairs for the breeding season. This year, three black woodpeckers have already hatched at Ostankino. The young birds will stick by their parents throughout the summer, but by early September, they will leave their native grounds. Today, two pairs of black woodpeckers live in the park.

In all, over 70 species of birds, not counting water birds, live at Ostankino Park and VDNKh in summer. There are seven species of woodpecker (lesser spotted woodpeckers, middle spotted woodpeckers, greater spotted woodpeckers and white-backed, green, grey-headed and black woodpeckers), as well as two species of falcons (northern goshawks and sparrow hawks) and at least four species of owl. The latter include two pairs of grey tawny owls with youngsters, three Ural owls, long-eared owls and pygmy owls, which are the smallest members of the owl family. Almost all these birds have been listed in Moscow’s Red Data Book as rare, vulnerable or endangered species.

Incidentally, the grey tawny owls start building nests in the park earlier than elsewhere in Russia. The first hatches already appear in mid-December and in February young birds take flight.

Photographs courtesy by VDNKh ornithologist and member of the Bird Lovers Association Vladimir Goryachev.