Learn urban birdwatching with this architect-designed guide

Architect Antonin Yuji Maeno's free digital urban birdwatching guide is the lockdown flight of fancy we didn't know we needed

bird sketch
Eurasian Blue Chickadee, from ’Window Birds’.
(Image credit: Illustration by Antonin Yuji Maeno)

As we gaze out at the same view hour after hour, the only thing that seems to change is the position of the shadows, and the birds visiting our windowsills. A new free, digital guide conceived by Paris-based architect, designer, and birdwatcher, Antonin Yuji Maeno, gives your urban gazing some direction, by helping you tell the difference between a Blackcap and a Nuthatch.

According the Maeno, who is also the founder of architecture and design studio Cutwork, the guide is ‘an invitation to anyone to look out for the 55 urban birds that we can easily see from one’s home. It’s a window, a means to be aware of your immediate environment.' It seeks to encourage the reader to paradoxically re-engage with the outdoors while inside – a note that will ring in the minds of many who are practising social distancing or self-isolation.

Sketch of open window

(Image credit: Illustration by Antonin Yuji Maeno)

view of the rooftops of Paris

Top, an urban birdwatchers’ haven. Bottom, a view of the rooftops of Paris, both from ’Window Birds’.

(Image credit: Illustration by Antonin Yuji Maeno)

Anyone who knows Maeno knows that he spends his free time at the window of his Paris apartment, bird spotting. It's an interest that influences Cutwork studio's ethos of reconnecting with nature within the interior setting. ‘For me, being an architect and observing birds is part of the same pleasure,' he writes in the self-illustrated beak bible. ‘Looking at the world and always being on the lookout for constant change – opening the senses to the immediate environment and the greater territories shared between beings. The city must once again become an environment conducive to the blossoming and nature proliferation of life. Buildings should be planted like trees to activate biodiversity in our cities.'

He continues: ‘To watch birds in the city is to learn to see again. It is not about how to see but how to deploy our perspective both in a literal and figurative sense. It is a gateway to explore what co-exists with us and the bigger ecology we are all a part of.'

Step by step, learn how to spot urban ornithological myth-makers. Did you know, for example, woodpeckers move with agility, like mice, against the bark of trees, or that the hedge sparrow (whose love life is ‘quite tumultuous’, with many extra-marital affairs) can be discerned by the delicacy of its beak?

Accessible to anyone with a window and an internet connection, Maeno's free digital guide could not be more timely – there has never has there been a better moment to take up a meditative passtime. Here's to staying indoors, and living vicariously through our flighty friends, that bless our windowsills with welcome signs of the great outside.

Sketch of bird

(Image credit: Illustration by Antonin Yuji Maeno)


Top, Rare Wallcreeper –  ’If you see one of these, you really have to get really excited, take lots of pictures, and call me RIGHT AWAY!’ writes Maeno. Bottom, migration path directly from Africa to Paris in the Spring season. ‘The first swallow of the year and the first Swift’s screams are always a big moment’. Both from ’Window Birds’.

(Image credit: Illustration by Antonin Yuji Maeno)



Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.