Northern Hudson River Parks

Northern Hudson River Parks

A view of the New Jersey Palisades over the Hudson River, from Wave Hill. Photo: Daniel Ross/CC BY 2.0
Several preserved greenspaces along the Hudson River form a nearly contiguous bird habitat in the south Bronx, just north of Manhattan. These four waterfront sites offer spectacular views of the Hudson River and New Jersey’s Palisades, though the active passenger rail tracks along the river block direct waterfront access. The parks' woodlands, in some places quite wild, also provide stopover for migrating songbirds. 
The chestnut-and-black male Orchard Oriole sometimes claims nesting territory in parks along the Hudson River. 
Photo: <a href="https://laurameyers.photoshelter.com/index" target="_blank">Laura Meyers</a>
The chestnut-and-black male Orchard Oriole sometimes claims nesting territory in parks along the Hudson River. Photo: Laura Meyers
The Bald Eagle, while always an exciting sighting, has become increasingly common in New York City, and is seen with some frequency along the Hudson, particularly in the wintertime.  Photo: <a href="http://www.stevenanz.com/" target="_blank">Steve Nanz</a>
The Bald Eagle, while always an exciting sighting, has become increasingly common in New York City, and is seen with some frequency along the Hudson, particularly in the wintertime. Photo: Steve Nanz
The high trill of the Cedar Waxwing can be heard year-round in  the Bronx's wooded parks. Photo: <a href="https://www.fotoportmann.com/" target="_blank">François Portmann</a>
The high trill of the Cedar Waxwing can be heard year-round in the Bronx's wooded parks. Photo: François Portmann
Starting from the northern shore of the Harlem River and heading north, these North Hudson River Parks include Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park,  Riverdale Park, and Raoul Wallenberg Forest Preserve, which include deciduous woodlands, brushy clearings, and freshwater wetlands. Further north and inland from Riverdale Park sits the Wave Hill estate. Wave Hill’s formal gardens and lawns attract a great variety of migrating birds, and regular bird walks are offered. northernhudsonhs
Late afternoon light paints Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park in orange tones (viewed across Spuyten Duyvil Ceek from Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan). <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/steveguttman/5155511637/" target="_blank">Photo</a>: Steve Guttman/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/" target="_blank">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>
Late afternoon light paints Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park in orange tones (viewed across Spuyten Duyvil Ceek from Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan). Photo: Steve Guttman/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
From Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park to Riverdale Park

Birding Highlights by the Season

(no star = birding is not very productive, = somewhat productive, ✸✸ = productive, ✸✸✸ = very productive)

Spring Migration ✸✸✸
Warblers and other songbirds
 
Summer ✸
Nesting Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, possible Screech Owl
 
Fall Migration ✸✸✸
Raptors, warblers and other songbirds
 
Winter ✸✸
Waterfowl, Raptors, mixed songbird feeding flocks
 
Year-Round Highlights
Woodpeckers, Common Raven


Get Oriented

View a Google map to see the locations on this route. (Note that the Google map’s walking recommendation may differ from the exact route outlined in the text above!)

A male Red-breasted Merganser, up from a dive. Photo: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/CC BY 2.0 "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> A male Red-breasted Merganser, up from a dive. Photo: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/CC BY 2.0
 

Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park

Spuyten Duyvil is an early Dutch name for the steeply sloped area where the Harlem and Hudson Rivers meet. Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park itself is a small hillside (0.187 acres) overlooking the two rivers on the southwestern tip of the Bronx, directly across from Inwood Hill park. The Park is a natural stopover for songbirds migrating near the Hudson River and offers open views of ducks on the water.

Starting from the intersection of Johnson Avenue and Kappock Street (near bus stop), walk toward the high-rise apartment building with a blue facade. Make a right at the building and proceed downhill on Palisade Avenue to Edsall Avenue to the beginning of a woodchip path. Take this path to the end (only a few hundred feet) where there is a good view of the river and across to Manhattan’s Inwood Hill Park. Scan the trees along the path and the river for migrants. Walk west on Edsall Avenue and check the pond under the Henry Hudson Bridge. This area is good for wintering ducks, including Red-breasted Merganser. The abundance and variety of ducks depends upon freezing conditions further north—in short, the colder the winter up north, the better the chance for variety and numbers of ducks on open water in the New York City area.

You can also start from the Spuyten Duyvil Metro North Railroad Station and walk along Edsall Avenue, or take stairs up to Palisade Avenue, birding the same areas as above. Return to Johnson Avenue (which shortly becomes Palisade Avenue) and turn left (west) and walk past private residences to the tiny gated overlook on the left. Check for birds in the trees lining the street and in the bushes on the hillside below. Stop to take in the wonderful view of the river.
 
 Go back to Palisade Avenue and continue north until you reach West 232nd Street. In the section between Kappock Street and 232nd Street, there is fair birding in the former estate trees and bushes on both sides of the avenue. The private homes and the grounds of the Shervier Rehabilitation and Nursing Center along this section of Palisade Avenue host several noteworthy trees, including a Tulip Poplar tree that is among the largest known. The large oaks in this section host good numbers of fall and spring migrant songbirds.

The Great-crested Flycatcher, a cavity-nesting species, has been recorded breeding in the Raoul Wallenberg Forest Preserve. Photo: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/CC BY 2.0 "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> The Great-crested Flycatcher, a cavity-nesting species, has been recorded breeding in the Raoul Wallenberg Forest Preserve. Photo: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/CC BY 2.0


Riverdale Park and Raoul Wallenberg Forest Preserve

Riverdale Park stretches along the Hudson from 232nd Street to 254th Street, from the Hudson River to Palisade Avenue. The southern section can also be reached by taking local or express buses to Henry Hudson Parkway and 232nd Street, then walking three blocks west on 232nd Street to Palisade Avenue. There are no sidewalks on the westernmost portion of this walk, but there is not too much car traffic. Be careful.

Look for the entrance to the southern section of Riverdale Park near the northwest corner of 232nd Street and Palisade Avenue. Enter the southern section of the park through an opening in a chain link fence. Take the main trail closest to the river and walk north, checking the treetops and shrubs as you go.

A dapper fall-plumaged Chestnut-sided Warbler stops for a drink. Photo: David Speiser "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> A dapper fall-plumaged Chestnut-sided Warbler stops for a drink. Photo: David Speiser
 
At the beginning of this walk the woods are largely composed of native species; these are much more attractive to most migrant and resident birds than the Norway Maples and other invasive species in the next section of the walk. Continue north along the main trail and pass by a small brown brick building that is a power substation of the railroad. The tangled vegetation here can be surprisingly attractive to such fall migrants as Mourning and Chestnut-sided Warblers.
 
Walking north for a few minutes, one goes up and down some hills before coming to one of the most intact native forests in the city. Though vines of Eurasian origin are starting to invade, this section is still full of regionally declining plants, including spring wildflowers, Pinxter Azalea, Mapleleaf Viburnum, and Blueberry. The canopy is a mixture of oak, hickory, and other bird-friendly species. This is an excellent area for migrant and resident birds. Eastern Screech-Owls sometimes breed here, as do forest interior species like Great Crested Flycatcher and Red-eyed Vireo. Good numbers of Baltimore Orioles and even Orchard Orioles breed here.

Common Ravens have recently become year-round, nesting residents in New York City. Photo: Andrew Reding/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Common Ravens have recently become year-round, nesting residents in New York City. Photo: Andrew Reding/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


A new species that has become regular in Riverdale Park since 2009 is the Common Raven. These magnificent birds appear almost daily, playing in the updrafts along the river. They cover a lot of ground and are not always easy to see, but their unmistakable croaking and aerobatic flight make them unmistakable.
 
At the end of this section take the path uphill and back to the street. Walk north on Palisade Avenue. In a short distance, after passing a group of private residences, you can re-enter the park. This northern section of Riverdale Park has more invasive-dominated woods, and is rarely as productive for birds as the southern section of the park. There are some clearings and a freshwater wetland. Explore any of the trails and check the trees and brushy areas for migrants. The park ends at West 254th Street, half a mile from the start of the northern section.
 
To explore Raoul Wallenberg Forest Preserve, it is best to leave Riverdale Park at any of several trails just north of the brown brick substation and cross Palisade Avenue. Wallenberg is a small property between Riverdale and Seton Parks and can be birded quickly, unless one happens upon a migrant wave.

The whinnying call of the Downy Woodpecker (here, a male with his red crown patch) is heard in the woods of Riverdale Park and Raoul Wallenberg Forest Preserve. Photo: Dave Ostapiuk "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> The whinnying call of the Downy Woodpecker (here, a male with his red crown patch) is heard in the woods of Riverdale Park and Raoul Wallenberg Forest Preserve. Photo: Dave Ostapiuk


When to Go 

To see birding highlights at Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park, Riverdale Park, and Roaul Wallenberg Forest Preserve, by the season, see the top of this section. 
 

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 operating hours of Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park, Riverdale Park, and Roaul Wallenberg Forest Preserve, see the “Directions and Visiting Info” section, below. 

eBird

View eBird hotspot records for Spuyten Duyvil Shorefront Park to explore recent bird sightings, species bar charts, and more.
 

Personal Safety

The suggested route above runs through relatively safe, but remote, residential areas. All the same, it is best to bird in small groups of two to four. Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale parks have dog ticks and poison ivy. Watch for joggers and unleashed dogs along Palisade Avenue and in Riverdale Park. 
 

Directions and Visiting Information

View a Google map to see the locations on this route. (Note that the Google map’s walking recommendation may differ from the exact route outlined in the text above!)

View a NYC Parks map (PDF) showing the boundaries of Riverdale and Raoul Wallenberg Parks.wavehillhs
Baltimore Orioles breed on the grounds of Wave Hill. (Here, a female gathers nesting material that she will weave into her hanging nest.) Photo: Mark Boyd/Audubon Photography Awards
Baltimore Orioles breed on the grounds of Wave Hill. (Here, a female gathers nesting material that she will weave into her hanging nest.) Photo: Mark Boyd/Audubon Photography Awards
Wave Hill

Birding Highlights by the Season

(no star = birding is not very productive, = somewhat productive, ✸✸ = productive, ✸✸✸ = very productive)
 
Spring Migration ✸✸✸
Warblers, tanagers, and other songbirds
 
Summer ✸
Nesting Warbling Vireo, Carolina Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles
 
Fall Migration ✸✸✸
Falcons, accipiters, and other raptors; Warblers and other songbirds
 
Winter ✸✸
Bald Eagle, woodpeckers, mixed songbird feeding flocks
 
Year-Round Highlights
Common Raven, Bald Eagle 


Get Oriented

View a Google map of Wave Hill.

The lush and diverse plantings of Wave Hill provide excellent habitat for both migrating and breeding birds. Photo: Howard Brier/CC BY 2.0 "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> The lush and diverse plantings of Wave Hill provide excellent habitat for both migrating and breeding birds. Photo: Howard Brier/CC BY 2.0


To reach Wave Hill from the north end of Riverdale Park, go past the Riverdale Country School and continue uphill, taking a left on Palisade Avenue. The entrance is shortly on the left (east). If visiting from the Riverdale Metro-North Riverdale station, check the shuttle bus schedule or walk uphill away from the river on West 254th Street and then take a right on Sycamore Avenue. Check in the large pines on the right and the orchard on the left for birds. Continue to the intersection of 252nd Street and Independence Avenue and turn right on Independence. In a short distance, Wave Hill’s main entrance (249th Street) appears on the right.

Wave Hill is a city-owned cultural and environmental institution, operated by a private, nonprofit board of directors. The 28-acre Park includes the Wave Hill House (with café and restrooms). There is an entrance fee (See links below for more information). Investigate the garden in front of the greenhouse to the right of the entrance as well as the stately oaks and beeches in the lawn area.

The Wilson`s Warbler (here, a male with his distinct black cap) is among the many species of songbird that stops by the gardens of Wave Hill each spring and fall. Photo: François Portmann "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> The Wilson`s Warbler (here, a male with his distinct black cap) is among the many species of songbird that stops by the gardens of Wave Hill each spring and fall. Photo: François Portmann
 
The lawn offers an unrestricted view overlooking the Hudson River and, in the fall, the bank of the river is a major fall corridor for hawks and other migrants. From September to November there is a steady procession of birds when conditions are right. On strong west and northwest winds, some hawks fly at eye level using the updrafts along the steep westward facing hills overlooking the Hudson River. A hawk watch here had good numbers of accipiters, falcons, and Red-tailed Hawks, but almost no Broad-winged Hawks. 
 
The most easily observed songbirds flying this river of air are Blue Jay, Northern Flicker, American Robin, and Cedar Waxwing, but many other species are visible as well. One November an irruption year brought thousands of chickadee, titmice, and other semi-resident birds. For several days flocks streamed past this bank of the Hudson, sometimes at a rate of 300 birds an hour.

The location of Wave Hill, high above the Hudson, makes it an excellent spot to see raptors like the Bald Eagle. Photo: François Portmann "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> The location of Wave Hill, high above the Hudson, makes it an excellent spot to see raptors like the Bald Eagle. Photo: François Portmann


Special Birding Notes: Winter Eagle Watching

In increasing numbers over the last few decades, Bald Eagles are again wintering along the lower Hudson. Though the best viewing areas are from Westchester County to Bear Mountain, these majestic birds are now seen daily from December to March from upper Manhattan on north. Eagles are most easily seen here when the Hudson freezes, usually for a few weeks in mid-February. At such times Bald Eagles ride ice flows south with the tide; often groups of adult and immature birds will squabble over dead fish. 
 

When to Go 

To see birding highlights at Wave Hill by the season, see the top of this section. 
 

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 Wave Hill operating hours, see the “Directions and Visiting Info” section, below. 
 

eBird

View eBird hotspot records for Wave Hill to explore recent bird sightings, species bar charts, and more.

Personal Safety

Wave Hill admission is restricted and birding is quite safe on the estate grounds. Watch for Poison Ivy along wooded paths.
 

Refuge Regulations

 Obtain a permit at the Visitor Center desk, if you are a first-time visitor. The following regulations apply: stay on trails, except in garden areas; picnic only at the designated site outside visitor center; no smoking; no radios or other sound-producing equipment; no collecting plants and/or other wildlife; no feeding of wild animals; and no bicycles, motor bikes, or cars on the trails.

Guided Bird Walks

NYC Audubon birding guide and naturalist Gabriel Willow leads regular tours at Wave Hill. Visit our Free and Partner Walks page for information on upcoming walks.  
 

Directions and Visiting Information

Acknowledgments

Thanks to those who provided local birding expertise for this page: David Burg (2020, 2012, and 2001)