© NYC Parks Avila
Nesting** Spring Migration*** Fall Migration*** Winter**
(no star = birding is not very productive, * = somewhat productive, ** = productive, *** = very productive)
In the center of Queens sits Forest Park with 538 acres of city parkland on the crest of the Harbor Hills terminal moraine, a ridge of sand rock that the Wisconsin glacier left when it retreated some 15,000 years ago.
Forest Park boasts the largest forest in Queens and is one of the best places in the city to witness spring migration of land birds. Nearly every species of warbler, vireo and thrush occurring in the northeastern United States has been seen here.
Woodhaven Boulevard divides the park into eastern and western sections. The eastern portion or, "East End," holds the most interest for birders. The western section is dominated by a golf course and other recreational facilities.
Forest Park trail map
Start point = a circled red x
The East End with "The Water Hole"
This 72-acre portion of Forest Park can be entered from the intersection of Metropolitan Avenue and Park Drive. This area is characterized by magnificent tall oak trees, which attract large numbers of migrating birds.
© NYC Parks Avila
Follow Park Drive (has no cars) in and take the first trail on the right (marked by boulders). Follow this trail, bearing left, and shortly see a small depression called the "Water Hole" off to the left (takes about 5 minutes to walk here). Look carefully since it can often be obscured by vegetation. Here, on a spring migration day, before it dries up in the later months, you may be fortunate enough to spot a variety of flycatchers, warblers, and other songbirds.
by D. Speiser
The remainder of this beautifully wooded section of Forest Park is also worth exploring during migration periods. Be aware that because of its peculiar shape and numerous trails, it is one of the easiest parks in which to get disoriented. Use the wide bridle trails and the railroad tracks to keep yourself oriented.
The 93-acre Gully, a glacial depression, is another good birding area. It lies on the west side of the railroad tracks. Follow Park Drive to the bridge that goes over the RR tracks (note - one may cross the RR tracks nearly anywhere in the park, but beware of the occasional train), and then turn right onto the bridle trail. Follow this trail until a large, cleared area on the left; the "Gully" lies below this. The Gully’s terrain is knob-and-kettle topography with a mature overstory of oaks and hickory trees and an understory of flowering dogwood and mapleleaf viburnum. To the west of the Gully is another glacial depression area called the "Horseshoe," but again, take note of the many confusing trails.
When to Go
Birding in Forest Park is good throughout the migration seasons. And, if truth be known, birders spend about 75% or more of all their time at the "Water Hole." It is often best in mid-to-late morning when the park heats up.
Winter birding is not very productive, although wintering chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, and juncos can be found.
by D. Speiser
Optimal Weather Conditions
Spring birding is best on warm days with light, southwest winds. Birding can also be quite good on a windless day if southwest winds blew during the previous night. Fall birding is good on days with northwest winds.
The trails in Forest Park are safe with dog walkers, joggers and the occasional horseback rider joining the birders.
To start birding from the intersection of Metropolitan Avenue and Park Drive as described above, click here
for google map directions.
Resource Persons for Forest Park Birding:
2012- Guy Tudor, Queens naturalist and renowned bird illustrator
2001- Don Riepe, NYC Audubon Board of Directors, former Park Ranger, Gateway National Recreation Area, and Chapter Director, American Littoral Society
Herb Roth, North Shore Audubon Society.