Urban Animals

Raccoons, squirrels and robins adapted to urban life long ago.

April 5, 2019 | | Notes from the Wild

Human beings survive and thrive almost everywhere on Earth including mountains and arctic tundra, deserts and steaming jungles, prairies and temperate woodlands. Our ability to adapt is the foundation of our success as a species. But other intelligent vertebrates also tap their adaptive genius to learn how to live in diverse habitats including our towns and cities.

Red fox from Georgetown back yard. Photo by David Williams.

Red fox from Georgetown back yard. Photo by David Williams.

Raccoons, squirrels and robins adapted to urban life long ago. Now these abundant urban animals are being joined by others, including red foxes, ravens and peregrines.

Having mastered survival in desert, tundra, prairie and woodlands, from Siberia to North Africa in Eurasia, and from Baffin Island to Florida in North America, red foxes see cities as just another habitat to take advantage of. They have learned that people usually don’t pose a threat. In fact, sticking close to us may help them avoid their most dangerous predators, coyotes.

Raven in Caledon. Photo by Don Scallen.

Raven in Caledon. Photo by Don Scallen.

Ravens have an even larger worldwide range than red foxes, and these brainy birds are starting to sample the charms of city life as well, which include our generous offerings of discarded junk food along roadsides and in parking lots. Predators of nestling birds, ravens are probably also feasting on the abundant pigeons, starlings and house sparrows that live in our towns.

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  • Another bird that occupies a diversity of habitats throughout the world, and lives on every continent except Antarctica, is the peregrine falcon. In Ontario and elsewhere they have learned to nest on urban “cliffs” – office buildings and apartments – despite the strange bipedal mammals shuffling around inside them. Downtown Brampton now has nesting peregrines, where they terrorize pigeons and occasionally strafe condo owners.

    Peregrine falcon from Brampton balcony. Photo by Peter and Rose Bailey.

    Peregrine falcon from Brampton balcony. Photo by Peter and Rose Bailey.

    We’ve created vast tracts of urban habitat for ourselves. Smart, curious, non-human minds are working the angles to join us.

    About the Author More by Don Scallen

    Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".

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