More Manhattan Hotspots

More Manhattan Hotspots

A Red-tailed Hawk comes in for a landing (on George Washington’s hand) in Union Square Park. Photo: François Portmann

Birding Highlights by the Season

(no star = birding is not very productive, * = somewhat productive, ** = productive, *** = very productive)
 
Spring Migration** 
American Woodcock; woodpeckers; warblers, vireos, tanagers, orioles, and other songbirds; occasional oddities such as nightjars or rails
 
Summer
Bryant Park: nearby nesting Peregrine Falcons
Morningside, Washington Square, and Tompkins Square Parks: nearby nesting Red-tailed Hawks. 
Morningside Park: possible wading birds
All parks: early migrants in late summer (August)
 
Fall Migration** 
American Woodcock; woodpeckers; warblers, tanagers, orioles, sparrows, and other songbirds; occasional oddities such as nightjars or rails
 
Winter*
Mixed sparrow and junco flocks; occasional lingering songbirds or American Woodcock; occasional vagrant flycatchers or songbirds
 
Year-Round Highlights
Red-tailed Hawk, possible Peregrine Falcon and American Kestrel


Get Oriented

American Woodcock (here surprisingly well camouflaged among colorful fall leaves in Bryant Park) often show up in our smallest city parks during migration. Photo: Isaac Grant
American Woodcock (here surprisingly well camouflaged among colorful fall leaves in Bryant Park) often show up in our smallest city parks during migration. Photo: Isaac Grant
 The Yellow-breasted Chat has been a celebrated visitor to a number of small Manhattan Parks. Photo: David Speiser
The Yellow-breasted Chat has been a celebrated visitor to a number of small Manhattan Parks. Photo: David Speiser
Manhattan parks of all sizes receive unusual visitors during migration. This Sora was observed in Madison Square Park in the fall of 2019. Photo: Ryan F. Mandelbaum
Manhattan parks of all sizes receive unusual visitors during migration. This Sora was observed in Madison Square Park in the fall of 2019. Photo: Ryan F. Mandelbaum
One might not expect small and busy Manhattan parks surrounded by skyscrapers to be productive birding spots. But at dawn during spring and fall migration, the millions of night-migrating birds flying over Manhattan seek places to rest and feed among the City’s landscape of cement and glass. The results can be almost surreal, and local birders know to check their local parks after nights with favorable winds. 
 
Very unexpected birds sometimes appear and stay for days on end, mingling with human park visitors: American Woodcock is a frequent sighting, for those who know where to look, during migration; other sightings have included Sora, Chuck Will’s Widow, Kentucky Warbler, and Scott’s Oriole. Our city’s most urban resident raptors—Red-tailed Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, and American Kestrels—are also common sightings in some of these parks, year-round. 

Bryant Park, in midtown Manhattan, is particularly well known for the variety of birds it has attracted during migration. But other parks host equally surprising varieties of birds—and most also host a nesting pair of Red-tailed Hawks either in the park or nearby. Among these are Harlem’s Morningside Park, the Flatiron’s Madison Square Park, Chelsea’s Union Square Park, Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park, and the East Village’s Tompkins Square Park. bryantparkhs
A Prothonotary Warbler takes a rest in Bryant Park. Photo: Avi Lewis
A Prothonotary Warbler takes a rest in Bryant Park. Photo: Avi Lewis
Bryant Park

Get Oriented

 
Bryant Park is the quintessential “postage-stamp” park: a 9.603-acre square of land located in midtown Manhattan between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and between 40th and 42nd Streets. Although the main branch of the New York Public Library is technically located within the park, the library building forms the park's functional eastern boundary, making Sixth Avenue the park's primary entrance. 
 
The park is managed by the private not-for-profit corporation Bryant Park Corporation, which oversaw a major renovation in the 1980s. During this renovation, which followed a period of deterioration and disuse, the Public Library’s stacks were constructed underneath the park itself as the Park was restored above. Bryant Park has since become a popular lunchtime spot and hosts a range of programming from concerts to tours to film screenings. During the winter months, the park is home to a holiday market and ice skating rink. And particularly during spring and fall migration, all this activity is accompanied by a continuous presence of both birds and birders.

This Connecticut Warbler made itself at home in Bryant Park. Photo: Anders Peltomaa/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> This Connecticut Warbler made itself at home in Bryant Park. Photo: Anders Peltomaa/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Birding Tours of Bryant Park

 Over the last fifteen or so years that birders have been regularly visiting the park and keeping accessible records, 133 species of birds have been seen here, including an impressive 32 species of warbler and 15 species of sparrow. Compare this to the 255 species recorded in Central Park—slightly fewer than half as many species, in a park that is just over 1/100 the size! Highlights have included a startling variety of species for such a small park: Sora, Great Egret, Red-shouldered and Broad-winged Hawk, Northern Harrier, Least and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and Nelson’s Sparrow—not to mention coveted Cerulean, Mourning, Blackburnian, Prothonotary, and Connecticut Warblers. 
 
In a partnership between NYC Audubon and Bryant Park Corporation, NYC Audubon guide and naturalist Gabriel Willow leads biweekly walks both spring and fall. These popular walks have turned up a wide variety of species ranging from unexpected visitors such as a Green Heron and Chuck-Will’s-widow roosting in branches of the London Plane trees lining the park, to regular sightings of normally shy woodland birds such as American Woodcock and Ovenbird, sometimes walking within inches of observers’ feet, or under the tables of oblivious lunchers.

A Chuck-will’s-widow preens atop a London Plane tree branch, high above the hubbub of Bryant Park. Photo: Amanda/CC BY-NC 2.0 "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> A Chuck-will’s-widow preens atop a London Plane tree branch, high above the hubbub of Bryant Park. Photo: Amanda/CC BY-NC 2.0


The Best Birding Spots of Bryant Park

 You can enter the park most easily from the southern, western, or northern sides. (NYC Audubon’s birding tours meet at the Birding Tour sign at the 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue entrance to the park. Don’t fret if you miss the start, however. The park is small enough that a quick walk around the park should allow you to spot the group.)
 
The most productive areas for birding tend to be the perennial borders surrounding the lawn. A surprising number of birds can hide in this limited habitat, and careful searching may reveal American Woodcock feeding or sleeping under shrubs, and sparrows and warblers in the undergrowth. It is also worth scanning the canopy of the London Plane trees for warblers, orioles, tanagers, and flycatchers gleaning insects in the treetops. The trees are uniformly tall, and it can be a challenge to find birds hidden in the foliage.

A Nelson’s Sparrow stopped by in Bryant Park. Photo: François Portmann "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> A Nelson’s Sparrow stopped by in Bryant Park. Photo: François Portmann


One particularly productive spot is a little maintenance area at the southeast corner of the park, in front of the Bryant Park Grill. You’ll find a small stone building, and a fenced-off area where the park stores tools, extra chairs, and other supplies. You can peek (but not venture) over the hedges surrounding this area and often find birds gathered in this relatively protected spot, bathing in rainwater that collects in flower pots and on tarps.
 
The front of the library (along Fifth Avenue) can be productive as well. On either side of the library entrance, there are two stands of honey locust trees (a native species, although these are thorn-less cultivars). These locust trees attract yellow-bellied sapsuckers, a species of migratory woodpecker that drills shallow holes in tree trunks and laps up the sap that trickles out. Their sap-wells in turn attract warblers, kinglets, and occasionally hummingbirds. On one memorable bird walk, 13 species of warbler were found in these trees at once.
 
During summer and winter, Bryant Park is somewhat quieter, birding-wise, as only the trifecta of ubiquitous nonnative urban birds nest here: Rock Pigeons, European Starlings, and House sparrows. A pair of Peregrine Falcons does nest on a nearby skyscraper, however. And every year a few native birds find their way to the park and spend part of the winter here, joining flocks of wintering White-throated Sparrows and offering close-up views: unusual past winter visitors have included Yellow-breasted Chat, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Ovenbird.

Watch overhead for Peregrine Falcons, which nest near Bryant Park. Photo: François Portmann "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Watch overhead for Peregrine Falcons, which nest near Bryant Park. Photo: François Portmann


Working Together to Protect Our Migrating Birds

 Bryant Park participates in NYC Audubon’s Project Safe Flight program. The park’s sanitation crew reports dead or injured birds in the park to NYC Audubon conservation staff, who then enter the findings into dBird, our online database of dead or injured birds found by the public. (To learn more about dBird, click here.)
 
Bryant Park also participates in NYC Audubon’s Lights Out New York program. During the spring and fall migration, Bryant Park turns out the spotlights illuminating the park at night so that birds may fly safely.

The beautiful Rock Pigeon, a European import sometimes overlooked by birders (and maligned in general), is very much at home in Bryant Park. Photo: Loren Chipman/CC BY-NC 2.0 "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> The beautiful Rock Pigeon, a European import sometimes overlooked by birders (and maligned in general), is very much at home in Bryant Park. Photo: Loren Chipman/CC BY-NC 2.0


Park History

During its long history, Bryant Park’s land has served as a potter’s field (a burial ground for unknown or indigent people); as “Reservoir Square” (adjacent to the elevated Croton Reservoir, which was itself situated on the land now occupied by the Public Library); the site of the “Crystal Palace” and Latting Observatory; and an encampment site for Union troops during the Civil War. In 1884, the land was renamed Bryant Park to honor recently deceased Romantic poet, longtime editor of the New York Evening Post, and civic reformer William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878). 
 
The park’s current classical design only dates to 1934, when it reopened following years of closure due to construction of the IRT subway line. (A contemporary article in The New Yorker remarked that in the previous fourteen years "Bryant Park has been closed to the public for half of that time on account they were digging in it..." also calling it one of the most "badgered and turned-up lots in the world"). A design by Queens architect Lusby Simpson was executed under the leadership of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses with the aid of consulting architect Aymar Embury II and landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, and the park reopened to the public on September 14, 1934.


An American Woodcock and White-throated Sparrow go about their business under the shrubbery of Bryant Park. Photo: François Portmann "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> An American Woodcock and White-throated Sparrow go about their business under the shrubbery of Bryant Park. Photo: François Portmann

When to Go

To learn about bird migration times and get other timing tips, see the When to Bird in NYC guide on our Birding 101 page.


For Bryant Park operating hours, see the “Directions and Visiting Info” section, below.
 

eBird

View eBird hotspot records for Bryant Park to explore recent bird sightings, species bar charts, a map of other nearby hotspots, and more.
 

Personal Safety

Bryant Park can be a busy park, particularly during the peak hours of lunchtime and after work. Birders should be sure to stay alert to pedestrian flow throughout the park, especially when using binoculars.
The park has retained many of its historic architectural features such as the balustrades. Park-goers should not sit or stand on these for their own personal safety and for the preservation of the park. Birders should feel free to use the available seating throughout the tour if needed.
 

Guided Bird Walks

NYC Audubon’s spring and fall birding tours are normally held twice weekly, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Spring tours usually commence around the second week of April and end around the third week of May. Fall tours typically begin in mid-September and conclude in late October. Visit our Local Trips page for information on other upcoming walks led by NYC Audubon.
 

Directions and Visiting Info

Bryant Park is situated behind the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. View a Google Map to Bryant Park.

Subway: Take the B, D, F, or M train to 42nd Street/Bryant Park, the 7 to 5th Avenue, or the 1,2,3, S, N, Q, or R trains to Times Square-42nd Street. 
 
Visit the Bryant Park Corporation website for operating hours, comprehensive directions, a park map, and additional background information. 
 
View the NYC Parks page for Bryant Park for additional information.morningsidehs
Two young Red-tailed Hawks in Morningside Park. Photo: Robert/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Two young Red-tailed Hawks in Morningside Park. Photo: Robert/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Morningside Park

Get Oriented

 
Between the neighborhoods of Harlem and Morningside Heights lies a drop of more than 100 feet, created by a clifflike formation of Manhattan Schist bedrock. This mostly wooded hillside, terraced with pathways and overlooks, hosts a waterfall and pond, and creates a corridor of connecting green space north of Central Park. Thankfully, early city developers thought it “inconvenient” to extend the street grid across the area’s steep terrain, and plans for Morningside Park were begun in 1870. A series of designers included Central Park architects Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead created the park’s network of pathways, steps, and esplanades. 
 
Friends of Morningside Park was established in 1981 to promote the rehabilitation and maintenance of the park. In 2018, NYC Parks conducted a major rehabilitation of the park’s pond and waterfall, including native plantings. eBirders have only been documenting species here for the last decade or so, and have already amassed a list of 126 species, including Wild Turkey, Broad-winged Hawk, and more than two dozen warblers.

A fall-plumaged male Scarlet Tanager stops by Morningside Park. Photo: Terence Zahner "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> A fall-plumaged male Scarlet Tanager stops by Morningside Park. Photo: Terence Zahner


Local birders report that this narrow park can be well covered in about one hour. The pond and waterfall, located between 113th and 114th Streets, provide a good place to start your birding explorations. The plantings and water source here may attract migrating flycatchers and songbirds. The pond hosts a regular coterie of common dabblers such as Mallards and Canada Geese, and occasionally attracts other waterbirds. Wading birds such as Great Egret may visit during the warmer months, and Great Blue Heron occasionally makes an appearance as well. 
 
Check overhead for Chimney Swifts and Swallows, and the nearby ball fields for occasional grassland birds that may stop over here during migration. Also make sure to stop by a small dripping water source near the 116th-Street stairs (descending from Morningside Drive), which attracts resident and migrant birds year round.

The Red-tailed Hawk nest on nearby St. John the Divine Cathedral moves around, but at times has sat on the shoulder of Saint Andrew. Photo: Bruce Yolton "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> The Red-tailed Hawk nest on nearby St. John the Divine Cathedral moves around, but at times has sat on the shoulder of Saint Andrew. Photo: Bruce Yolton


Woodpeckers like this forested park year-round; Downy Woodpeckers nest here, as do a few songbirds such as Blue Jay, Gray Catbird, and Northern Cardinal. Walk the wooded paths in search of migrants in spring and fall, and for mixed flocks of chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and sparrows over the winter. (Cooper’s Hawk may visit over the winter, attracted by the bounty.) 
 
Red-tailed Hawks, which nest on the nearby Cathedral of St. John the Divine, are also frequently seen here soaring overhead. In the late spring and summer, look for younger birds that may learn to hunt in the park.

Locally nesting waders like this Great Egret, as well as Black-crowned Night-Heron and Great Blue Heron, sometimes visit Morningside Park’s lake. Photo: Terence Zahner "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Locally nesting waders like this Great Egret, as well as Black-crowned Night-Heron and Great Blue Heron, sometimes visit Morningside Park’s lake. Photo: Terence Zahner


When to Go

To learn about bird migration times and get other timing tips, see the When to Bird in NYC guide on our Birding 101 page.


For Morningside Park operating hours, see the “Directions and Visiting Info” section, below.
 

eBird

View eBird hotspot records for Morningside Park to explore recent bird sightings, species bar charts, a map of other nearby hotspots, and more.
 

Personal Safety

Morningside Park is a popular neighborhood park, and in nice weather it is often busy with parties of local residents on the weekends. Some areas are fairly remote and may not be well frequented at other times, however; birding with companions is recommended. Birders should be sure to stay alert to pedestrian and bicycle flow throughout the park, especially when using binoculars.
 

Directions and Visiting Info

 
Subway: The park is a short walk away from the 110th and 116th Street stations of both the B/C and 1 trains.
 
Visit the Friends of Morningside Park website for operating hours, directions, a park map, and additional background information. 
 
View the NYC Parks page for Morningside Park for additional information. 
 

Other Resources

The Morningside Hawks blog is a good source of information about the Red-tailed Hawks that live in this neighborhood.madisonsquarehs
The lawns of Madison Square Park sometimes offer great views of unusual species, such as this Sora. Photo: Ryan F. Mandelbaum
The lawns of Madison Square Park sometimes offer great views of unusual species, such as this Sora. Photo: Ryan F. Mandelbaum
Madison Square Park

Get Oriented

 
Madison Square Park, at the junction of the Flatiron District, Rose Hill, and NoMad (“NOrth of MADison Square”) neighborhoods, is a leafy oasis in an area of the City without much other green space. As such, its mature trees, plantings of shrubs and perennials, and lawns can attract interesting birds during migration. 
 
Opened in 1847 and named after President James Madison, the park in turn gave its name to both Madison Avenue and Madison Square Garden (which is now located, after several moves, adjacent to Penn Station.) P.T Barnum declared the Garden’s first site, at the northeast corner of Madison and 26th Street, a "Monster Classical and Geological Hippodrome”; it was in use as such until 1925. (The original building no longer exists).

Blue Jays frequent Madison Square Park. Photo: Dave Ostapiuk "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Blue Jays frequent Madison Square Park. Photo: Dave Ostapiuk


Today, visitors come to Madison Square Park to enjoy outdoor sculpture displays, concession stands (you may have to wait a while to get your order at Shake Shack), and views of the Flatiron Building next door. And, some come to look for unusual avian visitors, particularly during spring and fall migration. eBirders have documented 113 species here, including 30 warbler species. Notable sightings, often providing excellent views on the park’s lawns, have included Sora, Yellow-breasted Chat, and both Connecticut and Mourning Warbler.
 
During migration, check the park’s lawns and shrub borders for warblers, vireos, and thrushes. (Hermit Thrushes are often seen in late fall and winter). Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are a frequent sighting here during migration and over the winter. Year-round, local Red-tailed Hawks are known to plunk down in the middle of a lawn here, in search of prey or just a rest, astounding passers-by.  Other year-round sightings include adaptable species like Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, and Gray Catbird.

Tail-bobbing Palm Warblers are frequent visitors to the Madison Square Park’s lawn and low shrub borders. Photo: Ryan F. Mandelbaum "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Tail-bobbing Palm Warblers are frequent visitors to the Madison Square Park’s lawn and low shrub borders. Photo: Ryan F. Mandelbaum


When to Go

To learn about bird migration times and get other timing tips, see the When to Bird in NYC guide on our Birding 101 page.


For Madison Square Park operating hours, see the “Directions and Visiting Info” section, below.
 

eBird

View eBird hotspot records for Madison Park to explore recent bird sightings, species bar charts, a map of other nearby hotspots, and more.
 

Personal Safety

Madison Square Park is well frequented and generally a safe place to bird. As it is frequently busy with non-birding park-goers, birders should be sure to stay alert to pedestrian and bicycle flow throughout the park, especially when using binoculars.
 

Directions and Visiting Info

Madison Square Park is located between Fifth and Madison Avenues, between 23rd and 26th Streets. View a Google Map to Madison Square Park.

Subway: The N/R 23rd Street stop is at the south end of Madison Square Park. The F/M and 6 23rd Street stops are each a cross-town block away.
 
Visit the Madison Square Park Conservancy website for operating hours, comprehensive directions, a park map, and additional background information. 
 
View the NYC Parks page for Madison Square Park for additional information.unionsquarehs
Ruby-crowned Kinglets and many other migrants stop through Union Square Park. Photo: François Portmann
Ruby-crowned Kinglets and many other migrants stop through Union Square Park. Photo: François Portmann
Union Square Park

Get Oriented

 
Named for the “union” it created between two major thoroughfares (now known as Broadway and Fourth Avenue) when planned in the early 1800s, this popular park continues to be a major transportation hub, as well as a public meeting spot. Built upon a public cemetery or potter’s field, the park, designed by several landscapers including Central and Prospect Park’s Vaux and Olmstead, has been the site of many gatherings and activist demonstrations over the years. The park witnessed the first Labor Day Parade in 1882, and more recently, sustained Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The park also hosts a popular green market and a winter holiday market. 
 
Despite all this human activity in a relatively small space, the park’s simple design of a central lawn ringed with mature trees and plantings also attracts migrating birds of many kinds. eBirders have documented 112 species here, including 27 warbler species and 13 sparrow species. Notable sightings by observant local birders have included fly-over raptors such as Bald Eagle and Broad-winged Hawk, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Eastern Bluebird, American Tree Sparrow, and a vagrant Scott’s Oriole.
 
During migration, check the park’s lawn and trees for warblers, vireos, and thrushes. Like in similar Madison Square Park, Hermit Thrushes and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are frequent sighting here during migration and over the winter. A good variety of sparrows are also spotted here both spring and fall; in the winter, White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos are occasionally joined by less common species such as Fox and Lincoln’s.

This Scott’s Oriole, an unusual visitor native to the American Southwest and Mexico, made do with the food options available in Union Square Park. Photo: David Speiser "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> This Scott’s Oriole, an unusual visitor native to the American Southwest and Mexico, made do with the food options available in Union Square Park. Photo: David Speiser


When to Go

To learn about bird migration times and get other timing tips, see the When to Bird in NYC guide on our Birding 101 page.


For Union Square Park operating hours, see the “Directions and Visiting Info” section, below.
 

eBird

View eBird hotspot records for Union Square Park to explore recent bird sightings, species bar charts, a map of other nearby hotspots, and more.
 

Personal Safety

Union Square Park is well frequented and generally a safe place to bird. As it is frequently busy with non-birding park-goers, birders should be sure to stay alert to pedestrian and bicycle flow throughout the park, especially when using binoculars.
 

Directions and Visiting Info

Union Square Park is located between Union Square East, Broadway, and Park Avenue South, between 14th and 17th Streets. View a Google Map to Union Square Park.

 Subway: The L/N/Q/R/4/5/6 Union Square stop is at the south end of Union Square Park. 
 
Visit the NYC Parks page for Union Square Park for operating hours, directions, a park map, and additional background information.washingtonsquarehs
A bold Northern Mockingbird harasses one of Washington Square Park’s resident Red-tailed Hawks. Photo: Jean Shum
A bold Northern Mockingbird harasses one of Washington Square Park’s resident Red-tailed Hawks. Photo: Jean Shum
Washington Square Park

Get Oriented

 
Built adjacent to the Lenape village of Sapokanikan, upon marshes once supplied by Minetta Brook (giving name to the nearby Minetta Lane), iconic Washington Square Park is rich with history. Over the past three centuries, the land has been used as both a potter’s field and parade ground, and since 1889 has featured the marble Washington Arch, built to commemorate the centennial of President George Washington’s New York City inauguration. 
 
This is a park of contrasting cultures: the formal arch is joined by stately 19th-century Greek revival mansions (which served as a setting for the Henry James novel, Washington Square) in framing a public park that since the 1960s has overflowed with bohemian, countercultural spirit. To this day, students from adjacent New York University (NYU) join street musicians, chess players, and tourists in creating a quintessential NYC scene here. 
 
Washington Square has also served as home to what might be considered New York City’s second-most-famous Red-tailed Hawk pair (with deference to founder [LINK TO Red-tailed Hawk page: Pale Male of Fifth Avenue] and his series of female companions). “Bobby and Violet” first nested on a window ledge of the Bobst Library, on the south side of the park, in 2011, and the raising of their chick “Pip” was admired ‘round the world via webcam. Red-tailed Hawks have continued to nest here ever since, though sadly, Bobby disappeared in 2019. There have been several other recent substitutions in the pair, but Red-tailed Hawks continue to breed in Washington Square Park. Hopefully they will keep delighting webcam viewers in the coming years.

Birders came from far and wide to see a Kentucky Warlbler that visited Washington Square Park in the spring of 2017. Photo: David Speiser "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Birders came from far and wide to see a Kentucky Warlbler that visited Washington Square Park in the spring of 2017. Photo: David Speiser


While Red-tails may be the park’s greatest claim to birding fame, its lawns and shade trees also provide an oasis of green that is very attractive to migrating birds. eBirders have documented 111 species here, including 25 warbler species. Notable sightings have included Belted Kingfisher, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Vireo, Kentucky Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Summer Tanager. 
 
During migration, check the park’s canopy trees and planted areas for warblers, tanagers, kinglets, thrushes, and other songbirds. Red-bellied Woodpecker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker are attracted to the park’s mature trees during migration and over the winter—when the park also hosts a contingent of White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. 
 
The north side of the park, especially along the northern border, is an area where birds are most likely to be found; this is a good place to look for Ovenbirds, woodpeckers, kinglets, and warblers. The Red-tailed Hawk pair is frequently seen on several buildings: Judson Church, 37 Washington Square West, and NYU’s Silver Center for Arts and Science. (Bobby’s nest site was located on the northwest corner of Bobst library.) The “center aisle” of the park often boasts multiple warbler species, especially in the Catalpa Tree just west of the large open area around the fountain. The lawn just north of the park bathrooms is a good place to look for sparrow species, while the area around the large children’s playground is a good location for Wood Thrush and other Catharus thrushes.

Listen for the cat-like, descending call of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker during migration and over the winter. Photo: Loyan Beausoleil "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Listen for the cat-like, descending call of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker during migration and over the winter. Photo: Loyan Beausoleil


When to Go

To learn about bird migration times and get other timing tips, see the When to Bird in NYC guide on our Birding 101 page.


For Washington Square Park operating hours, see the “Directions and Visiting Info” section, below.
 

eBird

View eBird hotspot records for Washington Square Park to explore recent bird sightings, species bar charts, a map of other nearby hotspots, and more.
 

Personal Safety

Washington Square Park is well frequented and generally a safe place to bird. It is generally busy with non-birding park-goers including students, musicians, chess players, and tourists. Birders should be sure to stay alert to pedestrian and bicycle flow throughout the park, especially when using binoculars.
 

Directions and Visiting Info


Subway: The A/C/E/B/D/F/M West 4th Street stop is a block west of Washington Square Park. 
 
Visit the NYC Parks page for Washington Square Park for operating hours, directions, a park map, and additional background information. 
 

Other Resources

Washington Square Park Eco Projects is an environmental initiative created by urban forester Georgia Silvera Seamans, with the mission to monitor biodiversity, to provide environmental education and community science programs, and to advocate for the ecological health of Washington Square Park.
 
 
Bruce Yolton’s Urban Hawks blog has also monitored Washington Square Park’s Red-tailed Hawks since their first nesting in 2011.tompkinssquarehs
Red-tailed Hawks can get quite up close and personal in Tompkins Square Park. Photo: Jean Shum
Red-tailed Hawks can get quite up close and personal in Tompkins Square Park. Photo: Jean Shum
Tompkins Square Park

Get Oriented

 
This free-wheeling East Village park, originally built on filled salt marsh (like most of the East Village and lower East Side), provides needed recreational and green space in this densely built part of the New York City. It owes its current character much to the persistence and determination of the neighborhood’s residents, and has long been a center of social activism. Residents resisted efforts to turn the park into a military parade ground in the late 19th century, and the park has repeatedly been the site of social demonstrations since then. The park includes a popular skate-boarding park (also persisting thanks to public pressure), and hosts festivals including the annual Wigstock festival and Drag March. 
 
The park includes a number of lawns, shrubbery, and mature trees—including several American Sycamores spared during its brief stint as a military parade ground, as well as a number of American Elms, part of an important collection of this endangered tree in New York City. These trees and plantings provide attractive stopover habitat for migrating birds, spring and fall: eBirders have documented 129 species in the park (second only to Bryant Park among Manhattan’s square, plaza-like parks), including 
26 warbler species. 
 
Notable species observed here have included Common Nighthawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Marsh Wren, Eastern Bluebird, and Summer Tanager, as well as a surprising variety of “fly-over” sightings including Common Loon, Glossy Ibis, and Bald Eagle. A Black-crowned Night-Heron became well known here several years ago, as it hunted for rats in the park.

In the evenings, a Black-crowned Night-Heron has occasionally come to hunt rats in Tompkins Square Park. Photo: Dave Ostapiuk "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> In the evenings, a Black-crowned Night-Heron has occasionally come to hunt rats in Tompkins Square Park. Photo: Dave Ostapiuk


Tompkins Square also hosts a resident Red-tailed Hawk pair, Christo and Amelia. Though the birds first nested on an air conditioner on the neighboring Christodora building (inspiring the male’s name), the pair usually nest in one of two trees in the park, a Ginkgo near 7th Street and Avenue B or an elm just south of the men’s bathroom. Christo and Amelia are well observed by park regulars who oversee and guard their welfare, and the hawks offspring often delight viewers as they play in the fenced off areas just below the nest trees. 
 
Among other raptors, Cooper’s Hawk, American Kestrel, and Merlin are frequently seen in the winter time, likely attracted by a good number of overwintering White-throated Sparrows, as well as mixed flocks of chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and woodpeckers. 
 
The areas where you are likely to find the widest variety of birds are on the east side of the park. The small, enclosed Don Roberts garden, located in the northeast area of the park, often hosts thrushes, Ovenbirds and waterthrushes during migration, and the low canopy above this garden is often a wonderful place to get a good look at warblers. 

A Summer Tanager was an unusual visitor to Tompkins Square Park. Photo: Dennis Edge "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> A Summer Tanager was an unusual visitor to Tompkins Square Park. Photo: Dennis Edge


From Don Roberts, walk west on the inner walkway. There you will find a fenced area with many cherry trees on the east side of the walkway and a fenced area with mature American Elms on the west side of the walkway. These two areas are good locations to look for birds in any season. During migration, Hooded Warbler, Wood Thrush, Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole and many others have been seen in these two fenced areas. 
 
A lesser-known area of Tompkins Square Park sits behind the park offices. Known as the Peace Park, and home to the Slocum Memorial Fountain, it offers a respite to hot weather: many birds, including the Red-tailed Hawk pair, often come to drink and bathe in the seasonal water feature.

Young Red-tailed Hawks bathe in Tompkins Square Park. Photo: Jean Shum "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Young Red-tailed Hawks bathe in Tompkins Square Park. Photo: Jean Shum


When to Go

To learn about bird migration times and get other timing tips, see the When to Bird in NYC guide on our Birding 101 page.


For Tompkins Square Park operating hours, see the “Directions and Visiting Info” section, below.
 

eBird

View eBird hotspot records for Tompkins Square Park to explore recent bird sightings, species bar charts, a map of other nearby hotspots, and more.
 

Personal Safety

Tompkins Square Park is a popular neighborhood park, but may be somewhat desolate during early or late hours; birding with a companion is recommended. Birders should be sure to stay alert to pedestrian and bicycle flow throughout the park, especially when using binoculars.Bags, jackets, and gear should never be left unattended and park bathrooms are recommended only as a last resort (out of concern for both safety and hygiene).
 

Directions and Visiting Info

 
Visit the NYC Parks page for Tompkins Square Park for operating hours, directions, a park map, and additional background information. 
 

Other Resources

Laura Goggin’s Photography webpage has monitored the Tompkins Square Park Red-tailed Hawks since they first nested on the Christadora building at 9th Street and Avenue B. Bruce Yolton’s Urban Hawks blog is another good source of photos and information.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to those who provided local birding expertise for this page: Loyan Beausoleil, Mary Beth Kooper, Ben Sadock, Georgia Silvera Seamans, Michael and Paula Waldron, Terence Zahner (2020); Bryant Park Corporation (2012)