Seven Underappreciated Birding Spots in New York


Birding in New York City is easier than you might think. “The best place to bird in New York is exactly where you are right at that moment,” said Martha Harbison, a writer and vice president of the Feminist Bird Club. “I’ve observed 20 species from my own window. And I live in a very ungreen area of Brooklyn.”

Every borough has a big park that gets a lot of attention: Central Park in Manhattan, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens and Pelham Bay Park the Bronx — the largest in the city, with 13 miles of shoreline. But there are plenty of underappreciated birding locations in New York City, and many are accessible by public transportation.

Although it is surrounded by glass high-rises and is right in the hubbub of Midtown Manhattan, Bryant Park, a 9.6-acre green space on West 40th Street and Sixth Avenue, is a great place to spot birds, whether it’s sparrows or the occasional owl. In the spring and the fall, the American woodcock often makes an appearance. The woodcock, also known as the timberdoodle, can be spotted on the ground beneath shrubbery, doing a groovy little dance. “Their eyes are way too far up on their head, their bill is three times too long and they run around on the ground probing the earth,” said Christian Cooper, the author of “Better Living Through Birding,” who counts Bryant Park as one of his favorites.

According to Alyssa Bueno, a Bronx native and a member of the Feminist Bird Club (an organization dedicated to birding and making the outdoors inclusive and safe), this park is a stunning setting from which to see shorebirds like greater yellowlegs and lesser yellowlegs, semipalmated sandpipers, least sandpipers and semipalmated plovers. In addition, if you check out the eastern side of the park adjacent to the golf course, Ms. Bueno advises, you can find a “really good grassland habitat” with Savannah sparrows and bobolinks during migration, as well as a salt marsh with bitterns — “and the views are amazing.” The park is conveniently located near the Soundview ferry landing.

Haley Scott, a birder and environmentalist from the Bronx, said that this park, where the East River meets Westchester Creek, truly meets the definition of underappreciated. “Nobody really bird-watches at this park,” she said. “And one of the first times I went there, we saw 31 different species of birds.” Her highest count at this park: 51 species in one day. In spring, there are warblers, Baltimore orioles, Eastern kingbirds and wading birds like yellow-crowned night-herons. Winter brings buffleheads and mergansers. And it’s walking distance to Soundview Park, where there are forest, grassland and salt-marsh habitats with resident hawks, tree swallows and egrets. The Bx39, Bx36 and Bx22 buses all stop near the park.

Winter is a good time to see a variety of interesting ducks, and Baisley Pond Park attracts them, Harbison said. Look for the northern shoveler, the ring-necked duck and the gadwall. The park is also known for attracting a striking species of diving duck called a redhead. Redheads breed in the Great Plains, but in winter they are known to visit New York City in large flocks. The Q6 bus stops right by the park.

Brooklyn’s largest park boasts its own ecosystem: a tidal salt marsh. Birders can find ospreys, great egrets, doublecrested cormorants, black-crowned night-herons, flashy American oystercatchers, with their vivid red-orange bills, and so much more. “There is this secretive marsh bird called a clapper rail,” Mx. Harbison said, “and Marine Park Salt Marsh is one of the only places in the city that you can reliably come across them.” The B3 bus stops near the Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center.

“I always say that if you know what a bird is, you’re a birder,” said Roslyn Rivas, the programs manager for NYC Audubon. “You don’t need any kind of fancy equipment. You don’t need $200 binoculars. You don’t even need to leave your home, honestly. You could just look — or listen — outside your window.” Still, for a little adventure, she recommends Shirley Chisholm State Park, which is surrounded by water and has 10 miles of biking and hiking trails, as a beautiful place to see wading birds, shorebirds, grassland songbirds and lots of raptors, including American kestrels, red-tailed hawks and northern harriers. It’s reached by taking the B42 bus to the Canarsie Pier and walking along the Shore Parkway.

At this park, located on New York Harbor and dedicated to the Victorian photographer Alice Austen, “you can see plenty of water birds,” Ms. Rivas said. (A historic house and museum are nearby.) Potential bird sightings include gadwalls and buffleheads, dazzling ducks like the common goldeneye and the red-breasted merganser and tons of gulls, including the laughing gull and the ring-billed gull. There’s a rocky beach, and stunning views of the harbor and the Manhattan skyline. The SIM33C and S51 buses stop nearby.



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