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Birders are out in force in New York City as feathered friends journey north for the spring migration.
Spencer Platt/Gett Images

Best bird-watching spots in New York City

Thousands of birds are flocking to the city as they journey north this spring

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Birders are out in force in New York City as feathered friends journey north for the spring migration.
| Photo by Spencer Platt/Gett Images

Strap on some binoculars and pull on a pair of hiking boots—it’s prime time for bird watching in the boroughs.

Most wouldn’t associate New York City as an oasis for wildlife, but it’s actually smack in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway, which makes it an ideal stop for birds as they nest and pack on the pounds during their migration north from roughly March through April. On the hunt for a golden-winged warbler? Or maybe an orchard oriole sighting? World-class birding spots are only a subway, bus, or ferry trip away, and if this is your first foray into the world of birding, there are plenty of free bird walks offered by the NYC Audubon and NYC Parks, among others, to help get you started.

Here are some of the best spots to gawk at the trees for the aerial procession.

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1. Central Park

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East 64th Street
New York, NY 10021

Let’s get the most obvious spot out of the way first. Central Park is known as one of the best birding spots in the U.S., attracting birders from across the globe. Migrating birds—during the spring and fall—often rest here before continuing north. On a single day during migration seasons, as many as 30 warblers can be seen, giving the park a reputation as a “warbler trap” on the coastal migration path, according to NYC Audubon.

Central Park
Michael Lee/Getty Images

2. Inwood Hill Park

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Payson Ave. &, Seaman Ave
New York, NY 10034

Some 150 bird species have been spotted in Inwood Hill Park, which is perched on the northwest tip of Manhattan. NYC Audubon suggests starting your bird walk by entering at 218th Street and Indian Road. During the spring migration be sure to check along the shoreline and bays—the mudflats at low tide, in particular—for shorebirds and gulls. Belted kingfisher and northern rough-winged swallow are regular visitors to the park during spring and early summer.

Inwood Hill Park
NYC Parks Department

3. Riverside Park

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Riverside Park may only be one-eighth of a mile wide, but it packs in the birdies. The forested and meadow areas between 116th and 124th streets are known as the Riverside Park Bird Sanctuary. Over the last three decades, at least 177 species of bird have been spotted in or near the 10-acre sanctuary, including rarities such as white-winged dove, chuck-will’s-widow, and the snowy owl. NYC Audubon suggests your begin your bird crawl at 116th Street and Riverside Drive, where you can scan the pin oaks just south of the sanctuary for orioles, warblers, tanagers, and buntings before heading deeper into the green space for more winged friends.

Riverside Park
Stacey Bramhall/Getty Images

4. Bryant Park

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Bryant Park certainly isn’t the first space to spring to mind when it comes to birding, but although the postage-stamp park is surrounded by skyscrapers in the heart of midtown, it draws several birds during migration. In fact, NYC Audubon and the Bryant Park Corporation have partnered to bring biweekly bird walks during the spring and fall led by naturalist Gabriel Willow. Uncommon visitors such as the green heron and chuck-will’s-widow have been spotted on such tours, as well as the more common, but none-the-less exciting, American woodcock, and ovenbird.

Bryant Park
Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

5. Pelham Bay Park

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At 2,765 acres, Pelham Bay Park is the largest of the city-owned parks with a wide array of topography that lures all sorts of birds. More than 250 species have been recorded at the park during all seasons, and more than 80 have bred here. The park is one of the last spots in the city where the American woodcock have their annual courtship flights.

Pelham Bay Park
Maria_Ermolova/Getty Images

6. Van Cortlandt Park

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Broadway and, Van Cortlandt Park S
The Bronx, NY 10471

Van Cortlandt Park spans more than 1,100 hilly acres in the north west Bronx, more than half of that acreage contains forests, meadows, scrubland, ridges, wetlands, brooks, and a man-made lake—all of which make for a dynamic avian habitat. Some 230 bird species have been record in Van Cortlandt Park. Come spring, 10 species of warbler may be seen on a spring morning in mid-May along with a slew of other bird types.

Van Cortlandt Park
James Blon/Getty Images

7. Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park

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Edsall Ave
The Bronx, NY 10463

The Park is a natural stop for songbirds migrating near the Hudson River and offers picturesque views of ducks on the rivers. Between dawn and 11:30 a.m. is your best bet to spot migratory birds.

Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park
NYC Parks

8. Riverdale Park

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254 Palisade Ave
The Bronx, NY 10463

Only a few blocks north of Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park, you’ll have the best luck with the southern section of Riverdale Park. If you’re feeling adventurous, the north, which is dominated by woods, does have some clearings and a freshwater wetland with trails full of trees and brushy areas that tend to lure migrating birds. Just as with Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park, the best time to visit for birding is between dawn and 11:30 a.m..

Riverdale Park
NYC Parks

9. Prospect Park

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Prospect Park transforms into a birder’s paradise during the spring, with bird species approaching 100 on a peak migration day. That includes five different vireo, several warblers, the eastern bluebird, vesper sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, rose-breasted grosbeak, indigo bunting, bobolink, orchard oriole, and Baltimore oriole. During the early migration, look for yellow-bellied sapsucker, and later in migration, keep your eye out for black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos, according to NYC Audubon.

Prospect Park
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

10. Green-Wood Cemetery

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500 25th St
Brooklyn, NY 11232

Although famed for a colony of escaped monk parakeets that have taken up residence in the gatehouse’s gothic spires, Green-Wood Cemetery is actually a popular spot for birds who pause to explore the cemetery’s ponds, exotic trees, and shrubs during their migration. Four ponds amid the burial ground attract herons, egrets, geese, and others. Here, there’s a chance to spot less common migrants, including pied-billed grebe, green-winged teal, hooded merganser, or the American coot. The cemetery is also home to many European linden, maple, and tulip trees that attract warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, and orioles.

Green-Wood Cemetery
Getty Images

11. Floyd Bennett Field

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Good birding can be found at the North Forty and along Floyd Bennett Field’s shorefront as well as in the grassland areas with visitors spotting up to 30 types of birds nesting here. Come spring, Floyd Bennett Field is a good spot for the relatively common savannah sparrow, and the rare grasshopper sparrow, bobolink, and eastern weadowlark. Northern harrier are also occasionally seen hunting the fields and shrub land here, says NYC Audubon.

The Millstone Trail towards Dead Horse Bay off of Barren Island/Floyd Bennett Field.
Getty Images

12. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

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The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a crucial haven for birds with 332 species sighted at the refuge over the last 25 years—that’s nearly half the species in the northeast—and is widely considered one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the northeastern region of the country. Birders flock to this spot year round.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

13. Alley Pond Park

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Union Tpke
Oakland Gardens, NY 11364

Alley Pond Park is arguably the most ecologically diverse park in Queens with its northern border touching the Long Island Sound’s Little Neck Bay. It boasts an entire watershed, kettle ponds, fresh water wetlands, salt-mash, and more. But its best spots for birding are the Alley Wetlands and Upper Alley Woodlands, with the woodlands being an ideal hunting ground for migrating songbird sightings, according to NYC Audubon.

Alley Pond Park
NYC Parks

14. Forest Park

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Forest Park
Queens, NY

Located in central Queens, Forest Park is a birding spot best visited on warm, sunny days with southwest winds. Birding here can still be fruitful on windless days if a southwest wind drew birds in the previous night.

Forest Park
NYC Parks

15. Freshkills Park

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Freshkills Park
Staten Island, NY 10314

Freshkills Park is chock full of hiking trails ideal for bucolic views with plenty of chances to spot songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, marsh birds, and seabirds.

Freshkills Park
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

16. Clove Lakes Park

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1150 Clove Rd
Staten Island, NY 10301

It’s possible to observe up to 20 warbler species here on spring mornings, including cerulean, prothonotary, Louisiana waterthrush (early in spring), Kentucky, and mourning (late in spring), according to NYC Audubon. Also watch for scarlet and summer tanagers, gray-cheeked thrush, Empidonax flycatchers, and others.

Clove Lakes Park
NYC Parks

17. North Mount Loretto State Forest

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6450 Hylan Blvd
Staten Island, NY 10309

This state park, which is overseen by the Department of Environmental Conservation, has some of the region’s only remaining grassland habitat and is well-documented for its wealth of botanical diversity. It’s an ideal spot for birding year-round, but in the springtime its pasture is a great spot for finding indigo bunting, migrating swallows, white-crowned sparrow, bobolink, and orchard orioles, among others.

North Mount Loretto Nature Preserve
Google Maps

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1. Central Park

East 64th Street, New York, NY 10021
Central Park
Michael Lee/Getty Images

Let’s get the most obvious spot out of the way first. Central Park is known as one of the best birding spots in the U.S., attracting birders from across the globe. Migrating birds—during the spring and fall—often rest here before continuing north. On a single day during migration seasons, as many as 30 warblers can be seen, giving the park a reputation as a “warbler trap” on the coastal migration path, according to NYC Audubon.

East 64th Street
New York, NY 10021

2. Inwood Hill Park

Payson Ave. &, Seaman Ave, New York, NY 10034
Inwood Hill Park
NYC Parks Department

Some 150 bird species have been spotted in Inwood Hill Park, which is perched on the northwest tip of Manhattan. NYC Audubon suggests starting your bird walk by entering at 218th Street and Indian Road. During the spring migration be sure to check along the shoreline and bays—the mudflats at low tide, in particular—for shorebirds and gulls. Belted kingfisher and northern rough-winged swallow are regular visitors to the park during spring and early summer.

Payson Ave. &, Seaman Ave
New York, NY 10034

3. Riverside Park

New York, NY
Riverside Park
Stacey Bramhall/Getty Images

Riverside Park may only be one-eighth of a mile wide, but it packs in the birdies. The forested and meadow areas between 116th and 124th streets are known as the Riverside Park Bird Sanctuary. Over the last three decades, at least 177 species of bird have been spotted in or near the 10-acre sanctuary, including rarities such as white-winged dove, chuck-will’s-widow, and the snowy owl. NYC Audubon suggests your begin your bird crawl at 116th Street and Riverside Drive, where you can scan the pin oaks just south of the sanctuary for orioles, warblers, tanagers, and buntings before heading deeper into the green space for more winged friends.

4. Bryant Park

New York, NY 10018
Bryant Park
Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Bryant Park certainly isn’t the first space to spring to mind when it comes to birding, but although the postage-stamp park is surrounded by skyscrapers in the heart of midtown, it draws several birds during migration. In fact, NYC Audubon and the Bryant Park Corporation have partnered to bring biweekly bird walks during the spring and fall led by naturalist Gabriel Willow. Uncommon visitors such as the green heron and chuck-will’s-widow have been spotted on such tours, as well as the more common, but none-the-less exciting, American woodcock, and ovenbird.

5. Pelham Bay Park

The Bronx, NY 10461
Pelham Bay Park
Maria_Ermolova/Getty Images

At 2,765 acres, Pelham Bay Park is the largest of the city-owned parks with a wide array of topography that lures all sorts of birds. More than 250 species have been recorded at the park during all seasons, and more than 80 have bred here. The park is one of the last spots in the city where the American woodcock have their annual courtship flights.

6. Van Cortlandt Park

Broadway and, Van Cortlandt Park S, The Bronx, NY 10471
Van Cortlandt Park
James Blon/Getty Images

Van Cortlandt Park spans more than 1,100 hilly acres in the north west Bronx, more than half of that acreage contains forests, meadows, scrubland, ridges, wetlands, brooks, and a man-made lake—all of which make for a dynamic avian habitat. Some 230 bird species have been record in Van Cortlandt Park. Come spring, 10 species of warbler may be seen on a spring morning in mid-May along with a slew of other bird types.

Broadway and, Van Cortlandt Park S
The Bronx, NY 10471

7. Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park

Edsall Ave, The Bronx, NY 10463
Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park
NYC Parks

The Park is a natural stop for songbirds migrating near the Hudson River and offers picturesque views of ducks on the rivers. Between dawn and 11:30 a.m. is your best bet to spot migratory birds.

Edsall Ave
The Bronx, NY 10463

8. Riverdale Park

254 Palisade Ave, The Bronx, NY 10463
Riverdale Park
NYC Parks

Only a few blocks north of Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park, you’ll have the best luck with the southern section of Riverdale Park. If you’re feeling adventurous, the north, which is dominated by woods, does have some clearings and a freshwater wetland with trails full of trees and brushy areas that tend to lure migrating birds. Just as with Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park, the best time to visit for birding is between dawn and 11:30 a.m..

254 Palisade Ave
The Bronx, NY 10463

9. Prospect Park

Brooklyn, NY 11225
Prospect Park
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Prospect Park transforms into a birder’s paradise during the spring, with bird species approaching 100 on a peak migration day. That includes five different vireo, several warblers, the eastern bluebird, vesper sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, rose-breasted grosbeak, indigo bunting, bobolink, orchard oriole, and Baltimore oriole. During the early migration, look for yellow-bellied sapsucker, and later in migration, keep your eye out for black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos, according to NYC Audubon.

10. Green-Wood Cemetery

500 25th St, Brooklyn, NY 11232
Green-Wood Cemetery
Getty Images

Although famed for a colony of escaped monk parakeets that have taken up residence in the gatehouse’s gothic spires, Green-Wood Cemetery is actually a popular spot for birds who pause to explore the cemetery’s ponds, exotic trees, and shrubs during their migration. Four ponds amid the burial ground attract herons, egrets, geese, and others. Here, there’s a chance to spot less common migrants, including pied-billed grebe, green-winged teal, hooded merganser, or the American coot. The cemetery is also home to many European linden, maple, and tulip trees that attract warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, and orioles.

500 25th St
Brooklyn, NY 11232

11. Floyd Bennett Field

Brooklyn, NY 11234
The Millstone Trail towards Dead Horse Bay off of Barren Island/Floyd Bennett Field.
Getty Images

Good birding can be found at the North Forty and along Floyd Bennett Field’s shorefront as well as in the grassland areas with visitors spotting up to 30 types of birds nesting here. Come spring, Floyd Bennett Field is a good spot for the relatively common savannah sparrow, and the rare grasshopper sparrow, bobolink, and eastern weadowlark. Northern harrier are also occasionally seen hunting the fields and shrub land here, says NYC Audubon.

12. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Far Rockaway, NY 11693
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a crucial haven for birds with 332 species sighted at the refuge over the last 25 years—that’s nearly half the species in the northeast—and is widely considered one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the northeastern region of the country. Birders flock to this spot year round.

13. Alley Pond Park

Union Tpke, Oakland Gardens, NY 11364
Alley Pond Park
NYC Parks

Alley Pond Park is arguably the most ecologically diverse park in Queens with its northern border touching the Long Island Sound’s Little Neck Bay. It boasts an entire watershed, kettle ponds, fresh water wetlands, salt-mash, and more. But its best spots for birding are the Alley Wetlands and Upper Alley Woodlands, with the woodlands being an ideal hunting ground for migrating songbird sightings, according to NYC Audubon.

Union Tpke
Oakland Gardens, NY 11364

14. Forest Park

Forest Park, Queens, NY
Forest Park
NYC Parks

Located in central Queens, Forest Park is a birding spot best visited on warm, sunny days with southwest winds. Birding here can still be fruitful on windless days if a southwest wind drew birds in the previous night.

Forest Park
Queens, NY

15. Freshkills Park

Freshkills Park, Staten Island, NY 10314
Freshkills Park
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Freshkills Park is chock full of hiking trails ideal for bucolic views with plenty of chances to spot songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, marsh birds, and seabirds.

Freshkills Park
Staten Island, NY 10314

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16. Clove Lakes Park

1150 Clove Rd, Staten Island, NY 10301
Clove Lakes Park
NYC Parks

It’s possible to observe up to 20 warbler species here on spring mornings, including cerulean, prothonotary, Louisiana waterthrush (early in spring), Kentucky, and mourning (late in spring), according to NYC Audubon. Also watch for scarlet and summer tanagers, gray-cheeked thrush, Empidonax flycatchers, and others.

1150 Clove Rd
Staten Island, NY 10301

17. North Mount Loretto State Forest

6450 Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10309
North Mount Loretto Nature Preserve
Google Maps

This state park, which is overseen by the Department of Environmental Conservation, has some of the region’s only remaining grassland habitat and is well-documented for its wealth of botanical diversity. It’s an ideal spot for birding year-round, but in the springtime its pasture is a great spot for finding indigo bunting, migrating swallows, white-crowned sparrow, bobolink, and orchard orioles, among others.

6450 Hylan Blvd
Staten Island, NY 10309

Related Maps