With the warmest temperatures of the year approaching here in Holland and people spending a maximum amount of time outdoors, we turn our attention to avian life in the Netherlands…
TEN COMMON BIRD SPECIES IN HOLLAND
1) SEAGULLS – With the long North Sea coastline, it should come as no surprise that seagulls (primarily European Herring Gulls) are among the most common types of birds found in South Holland. With an average wingspan of 125-145 cm (4-5 ft), they are able to climb to high altitudes. Their extremely sharp vision allows them to spot prey and other sources of food from large distances. Their pointed yellow beaks allow them tear through paper and thin plastic bags which creates a nuisance in residential areas, especially on trash collection days.
2) PIGEONS – The Feral Pigeon is part of the Columbidae family of birds (which also includes Doves). Unlike the more useful Homing Pigeon, Feral Pigeons tend to be more of an annoyance than anything else, leaving excrement just about everywhere they go.
3) DUCKS – South Holland’s numerous freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds, streams and canals make it the perfect breeding ground for waterfowl. The most commonly seen waterbird in this region is the Mallard Duck. The males have colorful green heads, yellow beaks and bright orange webbed feet while the females are mostly brown. During the spring, ducklings are frequently spotted swimming behind their mother.
4) RAVENS & HOUSE CROWS– The Common Raven is has been known to exist in Europe for thousands of years and can be seen rather frequently here in South Holland. A similar-looking bird which can easily be mistaken for a Raven is the House Crow. Originally an Asian species, it has expanded throughout the world thanks mostly to cargo ships transporting goods from the Far East. With the Port of Rotterdam being the largest in Europe, it is not a surprise that the first significant colony was discovered in the Rotterdam’s coastal district Hoek van Holland in the late 1990’s. The House Crow is now commonly seen throughout the province.
5) EGYPTIAN GEESE – Several types of geese make South Holland their year-round home while others stay only temporarily while migrating north or south depending on the season. The most commonly seen type from this family of waterbirds is the Egyptian Goose. Males and females have no major distinguishing marks although males tend to be slightly larger. Most geese, including the Egyptian, are extremely territorial and will aggressively chase away smaller birds and ducks both on land and in the air.
6) PARAKEETS – Most people are surprised the first time they see a flock of loud green birds flying overhead, usually just before dusk. The Rose-Ringed Parakeet is not native to the Netherlands, but has survived and even thrived over the past several decades. In 2010, the estimated population of the Rose-Ringed Parakeet in the Randstad was estimated to be around 10,000, approximately twice as large as it had been estimated at in 2004. Aside from the major cities, Parakeet colonies have also formed in Leiden, Alphen aan den Rijn and Katwijk.
7) MOORHENS & COOTS – These waterbirds can be spotted on the canals of South Holland, living among ducks and geese. But unlike their larger neighbors, Moorhens and Eurasian Coots have sharp pointed beaks rather than rounded bills (Moorhens have red or orange beaks, Coots have white beaks). They nest in reeds along canals and are extremely territorial.
8) STORKS – Because these birds are so large, they are hard to miss when they take flight with an average wingspan from 155-215 cm (5-8 feet). They are also noticeable because they nest in high places (trees, power lines, building tops). The Stork is the official bird of the City of The Hague and is the most prominent feature in the city’s Cote of Arms.
9) GREY HERON – These large waterbirds are also common in South Holland. They catch their prey (usually small fish) by standing very still either on the water’s edge or in the water itself (they average 1 meter in height). Their wingspan can extend up to 195 cm (over 7 feet). It can be amusing to watch them remain so still as you get the impression they think you haven’t seen them.
10) SWANS – The regal and majestic Swan is a common sight in South Holland. Although the sheer numbers may not be as high as some other waterbirds, Swan sightings occur on a regular basis and are not out of the ordinary. They favor inland lakes, ponds and canals and can be frequently spotted on the Hofvijver in The Hague, along the Vliet in Voorburg and Leidschendam and on Kralingse Plas in Rotterdam.