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A man holding binoculars to his face gazes up into the green canopy of trees.
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 flying through NYC as we head into spring migration. Here’s the best places to spot them.

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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

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. One local outdoors group compiled this nifty guide for beginners.

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

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Central Park

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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.

An aerial view of Central Park lush canopy of green trees and one of its ponds.
Central Park
Michael Lee/Getty Images

Inwood Hill Park

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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. In the fall hawks and waterfowl are often seen migrating south along the river. If you gaze across the river to the Palisades, Turkey Vultures may be seen soaring in the updrafts.

A grassy law with a white suspension bridge in the background.
Inwood Hill Park
NYC Parks Department

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.

A grass lawn with a paved walkway cutting through. A couple is walking down the path toward a setting set that lights the clouded sky up with yellow and blue hues.
Riverside Park
Stacey Bramhall/Getty Images

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.

A view up into the green canopies of a tree-lined pedestrian plaza in Bryant Park.
Bryant Park
Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

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.

A thicket of reeds in front of an expansion pond. Canopies of leaves hang droop over the pond. In the back round, trees and more greenery can be seen.
Pelham Bay Park
Maria_Ermolova/Getty Images

Van Cortlandt Park

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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.

A grassy green and yellow lawn in front several lush green trees. Some of the learns on the trees have begun to yellow and brown.
Van Cortlandt Park
James Blon/Getty Images

Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park

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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.

Several green trees dot the waterfront of the Hudson River.
Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park
NYC Parks

Riverdale Park

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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..

A gravel path is lined with plants, trees and decaying tree limbs.
Riverdale Park
NYC Parks

Prospect Park

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Prospect Park transforms into a birder’s paradise during the migration months, 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.

A man bikes in solitude along a carless road in Prospect Park. Vibrant green trees tower over him in the background.
Prospect Park
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

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This idyllic green space is a natural retreat for birds due to the lush diversity of the gardens’ berry-producing trees and shrubs, along with its several ponds. During the spring and fall migrations, you won’t be hard pressed to spot traveling birds as they drop down for food, shelter, and water. In particular, the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden is a strong lure for waterbirds. Its especially famed for herons in the summer, but pied-billed grebe, wood duck, American wigeon, and northern shoveler have all been spotted there. Elsewhere in the gardens hummingbirds are a frequent sight during migration along with northern flicker, chipping sparrow, dark-eyed junc, among many others.

An in bloom cherry blossom tree with pink and white flowers shrouds a pond garden with a red wooden Japanese  Shinto structure within the pond in the distance.
The Shinto shrine at the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
Getty Images

Green-Wood Cemetery

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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.

An assortment of tomb stones pepper a hill in Green-Wood Cemetery. In the distance, the faint skyline of lower Manhattan’s skyscraper can be seen.
Green-Wood Cemetery
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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. 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.

Green vines and growth cover every inch of this park path.
The Millstone Trail towards Dead Horse Bay off of Barren Island/Floyd Bennett Field.
Getty Images

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.

A couple stand in the wild wetlands of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge bird watching with binoculars. In the foreground ducks are coasting on a pond. In the background, various high-rise Manhattan high-rise buildings can be seen.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Getty Images

Alley Pond Park

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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.

An “Alley Pond Park” sign at the entrance of a wooded path greets visitors. Beyond it, a thicket of greens and shrubs.
Alley Pond Park
NYC Parks

Forest Park

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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.

Stone benches line a paved circle path. Grass lawns and trees surround the walkway.
Forest Park
NYC Parks

Freshkills Park

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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.

A vibrant green hill overlooks Staten Island wetland with streams carving through the green landscape.
Freshkills Park
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Clove Lakes Park

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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. In the fall, walk to the east near the Fire Tower, visible on the hilltop; Vesper Sparrow has been seen here. Waterfowl can also be seen in the park through both migration seasons.

An expansion green field with a colonial building smack in the middle. The blue sky above it is dotted with puffy clouds.
Clove Lakes Park
NYC Parks

North Mount Loretto State Forest

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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.

A metal barrier blocks cars from entering a paved road. Behind it, thick greenery and trees.
North Mount Loretto Nature Preserve
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Central Park

An aerial view of Central Park lush canopy of green trees and one of its ponds.
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.

An aerial view of Central Park lush canopy of green trees and one of its ponds.
Central Park
Michael Lee/Getty Images

Inwood Hill Park

A grassy law with a white suspension bridge in the background.
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. In the fall hawks and waterfowl are often seen migrating south along the river. If you gaze across the river to the Palisades, Turkey Vultures may be seen soaring in the updrafts.

A grassy law with a white suspension bridge in the background.
Inwood Hill Park
NYC Parks Department

Riverside Park

A grass lawn with a paved walkway cutting through. A couple is walking down the path toward a setting set that lights the clouded sky up with yellow and blue hues.
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.

A grass lawn with a paved walkway cutting through. A couple is walking down the path toward a setting set that lights the clouded sky up with yellow and blue hues.
Riverside Park
Stacey Bramhall/Getty Images

Bryant Park

A view up into the green canopies of a tree-lined pedestrian plaza in Bryant Park.
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.

A view up into the green canopies of a tree-lined pedestrian plaza in Bryant Park.
Bryant Park
Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Pelham Bay Park

A thicket of reeds in front of an expansion pond. Canopies of leaves hang droop over the pond. In the back round, trees and more greenery can be seen.
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.

A thicket of reeds in front of an expansion pond. Canopies of leaves hang droop over the pond. In the back round, trees and more greenery can be seen.
Pelham Bay Park
Maria_Ermolova/Getty Images

Van Cortlandt Park

A grassy green and yellow lawn in front several lush green trees. Some of the learns on the trees have begun to yellow and brown.
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.

A grassy green and yellow lawn in front several lush green trees. Some of the learns on the trees have begun to yellow and brown.
Van Cortlandt Park
James Blon/Getty Images

Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park

Several green trees dot the waterfront of the Hudson River.
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.

Several green trees dot the waterfront of the Hudson River.
Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park
NYC Parks

Riverdale Park

A gravel path is lined with plants, trees and decaying tree limbs.
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..

A gravel path is lined with plants, trees and decaying tree limbs.
Riverdale Park
NYC Parks

Prospect Park

A man bikes in solitude along a carless road in Prospect Park. Vibrant green trees tower over him in the background.
Prospect Park
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Prospect Park transforms into a birder’s paradise during the migration months, 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.

A man bikes in solitude along a carless road in Prospect Park. Vibrant green trees tower over him in the background.
Prospect Park
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

An in bloom cherry blossom tree with pink and white flowers shrouds a pond garden with a red wooden Japanese  Shinto structure within the pond in the distance.
The Shinto shrine at the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
Getty Images

This idyllic green space is a natural retreat for birds due to the lush diversity of the gardens’ berry-producing trees and shrubs, along with its several ponds. During the spring and fall migrations, you won’t be hard pressed to spot traveling birds as they drop down for food, shelter, and water. In particular, the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden is a strong lure for waterbirds. Its especially famed for herons in the summer, but pied-billed grebe, wood duck, American wigeon, and northern shoveler have all been spotted there. Elsewhere in the gardens hummingbirds are a frequent sight during migration along with northern flicker, chipping sparrow, dark-eyed junc, among many others.

An in bloom cherry blossom tree with pink and white flowers shrouds a pond garden with a red wooden Japanese  Shinto structure within the pond in the distance.
The Shinto shrine at the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
Getty Images

Green-Wood Cemetery

An assortment of tomb stones pepper a hill in Green-Wood Cemetery. In the distance, the faint skyline of lower Manhattan’s skyscraper can be seen.
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.

An assortment of tomb stones pepper a hill in Green-Wood Cemetery. In the distance, the faint skyline of lower Manhattan’s skyscraper can be seen.
Green-Wood Cemetery
Getty Images

Floyd Bennett Field

Green vines and growth cover every inch of this park path.
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. 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.

Green vines and growth cover every inch of this park path.
The Millstone Trail towards Dead Horse Bay off of Barren Island/Floyd Bennett Field.
Getty Images

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

A couple stand in the wild wetlands of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge bird watching with binoculars. In the foreground ducks are coasting on a pond. In the background, various high-rise Manhattan high-rise buildings can be seen.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Getty Images

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.

A couple stand in the wild wetlands of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge bird watching with binoculars. In the foreground ducks are coasting on a pond. In the background, various high-rise Manhattan high-rise buildings can be seen.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Getty Images

Alley Pond Park

An “Alley Pond Park” sign at the entrance of a wooded path greets visitors. Beyond it, a thicket of greens and shrubs.
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.