New York City Birds - An Amazing Diversity
More than 350 species of birds have been recorded in New York City. These include
- common and adaptable urban species such as pigeons, gulls, grackles and house finches;
- migratory, neotropical songbirds that pass through the city each spring and fall, traveling to and from their temperate, boreal or arctic breeding grounds;
- huge numbers of hawks and other migrating birds of prey that coast up and own the Hudson River Valley.
- shorebirds such as threatened red knots and other increasingly endangered sandpipers or plovers.
- Spectacular waterfowl such as snow geese and numerous ducks that either stop temporarily while on migration or spend the winter in the NYC area, after a summer breeding in the Arctic.
- Central Park has been named one of the top ten places to birdwatch in the country.
- In spring and fall, nocturnal migrating birds can also be seen at dusk from the observation deck of the Empire state building.
- 16 pairs of peregrine falcons nest on buildings and bridges of the city (the highest breeding density in the world!), including the Brooklyn bridge where they can easily be seen from the ground.
- Thousands of herons and ibises nest each year on the small islands of NYC harbor and Estuary. Take a boat to see them with NYC Audubon:
- Each Spring at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, the seasonal egg-laying of thousands of Horseshoe crabs attract migratory red knots and sanderlings, shorebirds that circumnavigate the globe each year between their wintering grounds in Tierra Del Fuego and the breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic. See them pass through NYC with the American Litoral Society.
- Rare breeding birds in NYC include the federally endangered piping plover and the recently recovered Osprey.
In the news
Wild bird webcams
- A nesting pair of peregrine falcons can be observed live at the 55 water street building in downtown Manhattan, in the spring.
- Gotham has recently become a reintroduction site for bald eagles.
Prime areas and places to observe resident and migratory birds in NYC include:
Walks , talks and work-shops
The following organizations offer bird-watching tours, lectures in ornithology, as well as numerous bird-related work-shops and events throughout the city:
NYC’s exceptional diversity and numbers of birds is the result of it being situated along the Atlantic flyway , a travel corridor along the eastern seaboard that birds have been using for millennia. At the height of spring and fall migration, hundreds of thousands of individual birds pass through the city everyday.
A surprisingly wide diversity of natural areas and ecosystems - ranging from salt marshes to marine estuaries or hardwood forests - and other urban parklands exist within NYC’s network of parks , providing resting spots for large numbers of these migratory birds to land, forage for food and thus find the energy required to sustain the following leg of their journey. Many of these urban stop-over sites have been listed as Important Bird Areas by NY State Audubon.
To learn more about bird migration, visit the USGS website , or learn how Nexrad radars offer the possibility to monitor those species that migrate over the city at night.
Most common birds van be found breeding in the city, including sparrows and grackles. Some relatively adaptive parkland birds such as orioles, blue jays, red-bellied woodpeckers, tufted titmice, catbirds and mockingbirds, robins, yellow warblers and common yellowthroat can also be found. Rarer woodland birds for the city include wood thrush, phoebe, white-breasted nuthatch and American redstart. For many New Yorkers, undoubtedly some of the most notorious breeding birds include red-tailed hawks , peregrine falcons , as well as thousands of herons, egrets and ibises .
Urban Bird Threats
Current scientific research indicate that large numbers of migratory birds succumb each year to collisions with the windows of NYC skyscrapers or suffer, as humans do, from exposure to growing concentrations of industrial pollutants in the NYC area – or “ bioscape ”. Many birds and other wildlife do manage to adapt to urban life , while incurring the costs of stress, and/or or light and noise pollution .
In NYC specifically, the Natural Resource Defense Council has issued a report on and how birds and other wildlife are faring at the current rate of coastal development and water pollution .
Find out more about birds and pollution and what else is threatening birds with population declines .
To help protect and study city birds, the following organizations offer volunteer and/or citizen science positions, programs and activities: