The New York State Birding Trail Kicks Off on Staten Island's South Shore

The open fields of Mount Loretto are frequented by Indigo Buntings, Eastern Kingbirds, and Bald Eagles. Photo: Keith Michael


This article appears in the spring 2022 issue of The Urban Audubon.

By Hillarie O'Toole

If you’re anything like me, whether you’re exploring a new borough or heading farther afield, you want to know where the best birding spots are located. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find the information you're looking for across multiple websites. The newly launched New York State Birding Trail system aims to provide a one-stop, user-friendly, web-based resource for birders to find the trails and public spaces they seek across the state—starting right here in New York City.

Curated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the Birding Trail is aimed towards beginner and intermediate birders, but it offers information that will be of interest to more advanced users, as well. Unlike the Empire State Trail, a continuous 750-mile multi-use hiking trail, the new birding “trail” is actually a network of highlighted trails and birding hotspots that will function much like the state’s Path Through History resource. Like that program, the new birding trail serves to promote tourism throughout various regions of the state, in addition to raising awareness about wildlife conservation. With birding popularity on the rise, this new resource is a high priority for the NYSDEC and is intended to support and promote equity and access to the outdoors for all New Yorkers.

The New York State Birding Trail launched with grand ceremony on October 7, 2021, at its inaugural site: Staten Island’s Mount Loretto Unique Area, a dramatic bluff preserve overlooking Raritan Bay. Newly retired NYC Audubon Executive Director Kathryn Heintz, who had attended the event, remarked that “this new statewide birding trail system is exactly what we need at exactly this moment. More people in the City than ever before in our lifetimes are experiencing nature right here in the five boroughs.”

Mount Loretto’s wetlands attract a good variety of wading birds, including this Little Blue Heron. Photo: Keith Michael
When the trail is complete, featured locations will consist primarily of state and federal land partners, although private landholders such as towns, cemeteries, and land trusts can complete a self-nomination application for consideration. Such privately held sites must be user-friendly and will preferably have some amenities for visitors. Each official site will have signage clearly marking the area as a New York State Birding Trail location.

More birding trail sites across the state are slated to roll out throughout 2022. The website will incorporate Google Maps, allowing the trail network to be a dynamic resource. The profile of each highlighted trail or public space will describe the site’s ecology and include listings of offered activities and amenities, nearby Audubon chapters or parks, and frequently sighted bird species, along with links to more bird species information on eBird.

The Birding Trail website notes Mount Loretto Unique Area’s historic and ecologically rich 241 acres: “This land, which was once the territory of the Lenape and Munsee nations, is now home to people from throughout the world, including descendants of those original inhabitants.” As we head into spring, it’s the perfect time for birders of all ages and backgrounds to get outdoors and learn to love and care for these lands we share. Go out and explore Mount Loretto’s birding trail, the first of many more to come. (While you're there, you might spot one of New York City's Bald Eagles, which frequent the preserve; see an immature eagle photographed there, below.)

Visit to learn more. NYC Audubon contributed to the Birding Trail’s New York City site information. You'll find detailed birding recommendations for over 100 birding hotspots across the five boroughs at

An immature Bald Eagle in Staten Island’s Mount Loretto Unique Area. Photo: Lawrence Pugliares