New York City (New York State, USA)

The Big Apple, home to such fabled birding locations as Central Park, and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, as well as the Cronut.

New York City encompasses 5 counties, which are synonymous with the Boroughs of the city: Brooklyn (Kings County), Queens (Queens County), Manhattan (New York County), The Bronx (Bronx county), and Staten Island (Richmond County).

New York City Birding & Geography:


New York City, composed of the five boroughs of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, State Island, and The Bronx, is situated at the western end of Long Island, and straddles the mouth of the Hudson and East Rivers.
While it is very highly urbanized, it also has some large city parks, and most of the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area is also within the city limits.
Brooklyn (Kings County) and Queens (Queens County) make up the western end of Long Island, with Brooklyn as the western tip, and Queens just east of there.
Manhattan (New York County) is a thin island just west and northwest of Brooklyn and Queens, with the East River separating them. Manhattan is characterized by extremely dense urbanization (>70,000 people/square mile) surrounding Central Park, which is a rectangular green space right in the center of Manhattan. Manhattan has many other smaller parks, especially on its west side, right along the Hudson River. However, in recent years, the highly urban small parks right in the heart of the city have been garnering increased attention due to the number of migrants that have stayed late into the fall and winter, as well as some amazing overwintering vagrants.
The Bronx (Bronx County) is the only part of New York City that is actually part of the mainland, and it is located at the very western end of Long Island Sound, north and east of Manhattan, with the Harlem River separating the two boroughs.
Staten Island (Richmond County) lies between Brooklyn and New Jersey, and is only accessible from elsewhere in the city via bridge or the Staten Island Ferry. It is by far the least urban of all the boroughs, but is still more dense than most cities of its size in the USA.


New York City is best known in the birding world for Manhattan’s Central Park. While it is true that Central Park is an excellent birding destination in migration (especially spring migration), all five boroughs offer some really phenomenal birding through the year. Other large city parks & greenspaces similar to Central Park are Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Greenwood Cemetery, Forest Park and Alley Pond Park in Queens, and Van Cortland and Pelham Bay Parks in The Bronx. Staten Island has the large coastal green space of Great Kills Park, as well as many smaller and completely wild parks, and is split by a large greenbelt that runs from the southwest of the island to the northeast.

Wintering highlights in the area usually involve coastal dune & scrub habitat, and anywhere where there are decent-sized bodies of water (mostly saltwater, in NYC’s case). Northeastern specialties like Razorbill, Great Cormorant, Common Eider, and Purple Sandpipers can be seen along the coast, and waterfowl diversity can be most excellent, on both freshwater and saltwater (Eurasian Wigeon is annual). Gulls also provide a great diversion, with thousands upon thousands wintering in the city. Iceland, Glaucous, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls are annual, and Brooklyn alone boasts 4 Mew Gull records (of both the European subspecies l.c.canus, and the western North American species l.c.brachyrhynchus) in the last 8 years. The coastal open areas can also provide opportunities for Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, and the ever-regal Snowy Owl.

The spring songbird migration through New York City is legendary, and on a good spring flight any of the green urban oases can provide a spectacular array of absurdly bright and colorful warblers, orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, and many other neotropical migrant songbirds. 30+ species of warbler pass through New York City every spring, and you can see over 100 species of birds in a single location in one day (Prospect Park, and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, among others, can provide these kinds of days).

In summer, the city parks are bustling with breeding orioles, Yellow Warblers, and more, while the coasts provide breeding areas for good concentrations of Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Eastern WIllet, Black Skimmer, and Common and Least Terns. Halfway through our summer, the southbound (“fall”) migration through the area begins, and by late July you can see several thousand shorebirds in the Jamaica Bay estuary. The East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a world-renowned destination for watching migrant shorebirds. The list of shorebird species seen on this mile-long pond exceeds 40 species.

The fall migration can be even more spectacular than the spring migration, especially in terms of sheer numbers. While all the green spaces in the city still offer excellent birding during the fall, a trip to Queens barrier beaches can yield legitimately awe-inspiring visible migrations, with some days seeing tens of thousands of passerines in active diurnal migration.

New York City Statistics

Population (estimated as of 2013): 8,405,837
Area: 468 square miles (304.8 land/164.1 water)
Population Density: 27,778.7/square mile (10,725.4/square kilometer)

Bird Stats (updated January 23, 2015):
Species all-time: >400
Species all-time (in eBird): 392
2010-2014 average: 309.8
All-time eBird checklists: 103,000

2015 species list: 151
2015 checklists: 1,706

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