Alley Pond Park

Nesting**    Spring Migration***    Fall Migration***    Winter**
(no star = birding is not very productive, * = somewhat productive, ** = productive, *** = very productive)

Click here for a park map.

Alley Pond Park is the most ecologically diverse park owned by the City of New York/Parks and Recreation in Queens. The northern border touches on Long Island Sound’s Little Neck Bay. It contains an entire watershed; kettle ponds in a mature oak and beech forest on the terminal moraine, fresh water wetlands supported by ground water seeps and artesian springs on the outwash plain, and abundant salt-marsh along Alley Creek and its confluence with Little Neck Bay. The two best birding areas are in the Alley Wetlands and Upper Alley Woodlands.

© NYC Parks Avila

Alley Pond Park’s 635 acres are crisscrossed by the Grand Central Parkway, Cross Island Parkway, Long Island Expressway, and the Long Island Railroad, slicing the park into many segments, some of which comprise athletic fields, tennis courts, and playgrounds. The nationally recognized Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC)is located just off Northern Boulevard in the Alley Wetlands section of the Park. With a dual mission of education and restoration, APEC offers birdwalks, nature hikes, and an annual Urban Bird Arts Contest. Here you can pick up the NYC Parks Department's publication Alley Pond Park Trail Map and Travel Guide whichprovides detailed information about the trail system for the Wetlands and the Woodlands.

Alley Pond Park Marsh

by S. Walter

The Alley Wetlands
The meadows and old fields, on either side of the salt marshes flanking Alley Creek, are nesting habitat for American Woodcock, Willow Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, and Baltimore Oriole. In some years, Orchard Orioles may also be found.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

by D. Speiser

The Cattail Pond Trail from APEC leads to an observation deck overlooking Alley Creek and associated wetlands. Breeding birds often seen or heard here include Barn and Tree Swallow, the latter using nesting boxes situated in the salt marshes. Marsh Wrens can usually be heard singing and on occasion seen popping up in the reeds across the creek. Spotted Sandpipers have nested here recently and may even land on the boardwalk. In mid-summer, numbers of Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers highlight the variety of shorebirds and wading birds that feed on the exposed mudflats. Killdeer, Snowy Egret, and Black-crowned Night-Heron are frequent.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

by D. Speiser

Surprisingly, Forster's and Common Terns are not rare sights patrolling over the creek. In winter, a flock of Green-winged Teal is present in the creek. The brushy areas south of the environmental center building have become fairly reliable for small numbers of Fox Sparrow in recent winters. These can be looked for at the building if the feeder is active.

A larger, less accessible, salt marsh is situated at the confluence of Alley Creek and Little Neck Bay. Follow Joe Michael’s Memorial Mile from APEC to search for nesting Saltmarsh Sparrow and Swamp Sparrow. In 1998, fourteen acres of intertidal marsh were restored, in an area previously dominated by Phragmites. During construction, an Osprey platform was erected and, in the spring, was immediately occupied. The Osprey fledged chicks in 1998 and in 1999. Until this time, Osprey had not been observed nesting on the north shore of Queens for 80 years or more.

Horned Grebe

by D. Speiser
© NYC Parks Avila

During the winter, Little Neck Bay is visited by wintering waterfowl, including Horned Grebe, Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, and Ruddy Duck. In November, migrants have included Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, all three scoters, Bonaparte’s Gull, and storm-blown Northern Gannet.

© NYC Parks Avila


by D. Speiser

The Upper Alley Woodlands
The Woodlands (at the southern end of the Park, west of Cross Island Parkway) comprises 100 acres of continuous forest canopy. Many trees here are 200 years old. This is the best spot in the park to look for spring and fall migrating songbirds. On fallout days in May, the woods may seem engulfed with sounds of songbirds. The songs of Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ovenbird, Northern Parula, and Blackpoll Warbler dominate and a keen observer will be able to detect many other species. Sought after rarities may include, Prothonotary, Kentucky, and Hooded Warblers in spring and Philadelphia Vireo and Connecticut Warbler in fall. Common breeding songbirds in the woodlands include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Gray Catbird, American Robin, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, and American Redstart. More diligent searching may lead to nesting pairs of Great Crested Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Since 2000, Great Horned Owls have nested most years in the vicinity of Decadon Pond. In winter and early spring, Rusty Blackbirds can sometimes be found around the kettle ponds. The west end of Oakland Lake, however, may be the most reliable location in the New York area for the blackbirds in winter.

Great Horned Owl

© NYC Parks Avila

Personal Safety

It is best to bird with someone else or a group at Alley Pond Park.

Poison ivy is found here and there throughout the Park. It is not a problem if you stay on the trails. Dog ticks may be encountered from mid-April through June in field areas. Again, stay on the trails to avoid them. Mosquitoes breed in the wetlands June through September. They are usually not a problem on cool, dry days with wind.

Getting There
For Alley Pond Environmental Center (Alley Wetlands) Google map click here 
For Upper Alley Woodlands Google map click here

Gray Catbird

by D. Speiser

For Additional Information on Alley Pond Park

Alley Pond Environmental Center, 718-229-4000,
Queens County Bird Club, 718-229-4000,
Urban Park Rangers, 718-846-2731, website - click here.


Resource Persons For Alley Pond Park Birding; 2012- Steve Walter, Queens naturalist. 2001- Aline Euler, past NYC Audubon Board of Directors, and Education Director of Alley Pond Environmental Center; Mike Feller, Natural Resources Group, City of New York/Parks and Recreation; and Larry Plotnick, Queens County Bird Club

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