Birding for Boomers: Free Birdwatching Events in NYC Parks

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By William Beavers

Get out your binoculars!

This fall catch a glimpse of migrating birds — some from as far away as the Arctic Circle — as they pass through the the city’s five boroughs on their way to Central and South America.

New York is a major hub on the Atlantic Flyway, the path which many migrating birds take as they fly south. During seasonal migrations, New York’s parks are prime locations to spot almost every species of warbler, vireo and thrush from the Northeastern U.S. as they stop to rest and find food.

“Few people associate New York City with wildlife or birdwatching, but the truth is that in the city’s parks and green spaces, and along portions of the 578-mile waterfront, you’ll find some of the best places in the world to watch birds,” say New York City Audubon.

The city’s Parks Department, as well as various wildlife organizations, are hosting several events in October and November. What follows is a partial list of FREE events open to all skill levels, so novices are welcome. To improve your experience bring binoculars and field guides, if you have them, and wear sturdy shoes.


In the Bronx, there are a number of popular birding walks. These are led in Van Cortlandt Park by Urban Park Rangers and NYC Audubon. Rangers also lead birding programs in Pelham Bay. There you can see owls at Hunter Island, as well as a variety of song birds and water fowl in Long Island Sound.

Bird Walks at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (Van Cortlandt Park) led by NYC Audubon experts.
Saturdays on Oct. 11, 18, and 25, and Nov. 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29 at 8 a.m., (718) 430-1890, more information here.

Fall Birding at Perkins Visitors Center (Wave Hill)
Sunday, Oct. 12 at 9:30 a.m. Naturalist Gabriel Willow to speak, (718) 549-3200 X251. Registration required at


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Some of New York’s hottest birding sites are in Central Park. The most famous is probably the Ramble. Throughout the year this is a superb place to find song birds. Central Park’s North Woods is also a great place for song birds, and both areas are favorites for owls in both seasons. Other popular birding parks in Manhattan include Riverside Park (for hawks and song birds) and Inwood Hill Park, for song birds, raptors, and water fowl.

Central Park Bird Walk, Loeb Boathouse, Oct. 20 and Oct. 28, 7:30 a.m. Registration is required for this event at their site.

Birding for Families, Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (inside Central Park at 110th street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues), Oct. 19, 10 a.m.-11 a.m., organized by the Central Park Conservancy.

Birding Tours of Bryant Park, 42nd Street and 6th Avenue, presented in partnership with NYC Audubon, Thursday, Oct. 16 and Oct. 19, 8 a.m.


In Brooklyn, Prospect Park is a wonderful place to see all varieties of birds throughout the year. Marine Park is home to ospreys and a wide variety of waterfowl. Join the Prospect Park Alliance at the Audubon Center for this Introduction to Bird Watching series.

Blooming Naturalists at Audubon Center Boathouse in Prospect Park.
Thursdays and Fridays, Oct. 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and 31, Nov. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28,1 p.m.–2 p.m., (718) 287-3400.

Raptor Migration at Gateway Drive and Erskine Street (in Spring Creek Park)
Saturday, Nov. 15, 11 a.m., (718) 421-2021,


In Queens, Forest Park and Alley Pond Park feature song birds and owls. The newly opened reservoir trail at Highland Park is a hidden secret among birders, great for songsters. Rockaway Beach is home to an endangered piping plover, as well as a large variety of interesting waterfowl.

Fall Migration at Oceania Street and 67th Street (in Cunningham Park), guided by the Urban Park Rangers, Saturday, Oct.18, 10 a.m., (718) 352-1769,

Birds of the Ridgewood Reservoir at Ridgewood Reservoir.
See winter sparrows, waterfowl, and birds of prey such as hawks, falcons and the bald eagle. Sunday, Oct. 26, from 9 a.m.–11 a.m., (718) 235-4462,


In Staten Island, with its abundant green spaces, there are a lot of opportunities to find great birding spots. Fresh Kills landfill is a wonderful place to spot rare birds. Moses Mountain in High Rock Park is a popular place to watch migratory hawks. And Clove Lakes Park is perhaps the perfect place to find waterfowl and song birds.

Raptor Migration at High Rock Park parking area, Sunday, Oct. 12 at 11 a.m., (718) 967-3542.

William  Beavers is a New York writer and author of the “New York City Culture Catalog” (Abrams/Alliance for the Arts).

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