Breeding Bird Surveys
New York City is a world famous bird migration hotspot, both spring and fall. In the springtime, millions of migrating birds funnel into our green spaces as they travel north along the Atlantic Flyway. Most rest and refuel for a few days, before moving on to breeding grounds far from here. But good variety, more than many birders realize, stay here to nest and raise young.
NYC Audubon has been involved in several surveys of New York City’s nesting birds, in addition to our 35-year-old Harbor Herons Nesting Survey and our surveys of beach-nesting birds: We conducted a partial breeding census of Central Park in 1994, and complete censuses in 1998 and 2008. We also conducted a census of Van Cortlandt Park in 2006. We are also now happy to be taking part in New York State’s third Breeding Bird Atlas.
Learn more about the Breeding Bird Atlas and explore results at www.ebird.org/atlasny/home. If you have questions about participating in the New York City count, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Central Park is an extremely important habitat for migrating birds and also for birds that choose the park as a place to breed. In recognition of Central Park's importance to birds, the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy designated Central Park an Important Bird Area in New York State in 1998, recognizing the significance of its manmade avian habitats, which include meadows, grassy hillocks, rocky crags, woodlands, ravines, streams, ponds, lakes, and a reservoir. To assess the breeding species and their success, NYC Audubon has conducted three past evaluations in Central Park: a partial census of the western side of the park in 1994, and a complete census in 1998 and again in 2008.
To conduct a complete census, in 2008 Central Park was divided into 20 blocks; volunteers visited each block eight times between May 24 and July 18, in order to cover early and late breeding species as well as the main June breeding period, and followed the nesting bird census protocol developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Volunteers identified and counted nests, as well as individuals they saw carrying nesting material or feeding young birds.
Some interesting changes occurred in the 10 years between the complete censuses. Although there were changes in the composition of species breeding in the park between the two years, the overall number of species and pairs observed remained quite stable. Twenty-eight native bird species were observed breeding in Central Park in both 1998 and 2008. Six species were confirmed as breeding in Central Park in 1998 that were not seen in 2008: Common Yellowthroat, Fish Crow, Great Crested Flycatcher, Mute Swan, Rough-winged Swallow, and Song Sparrow. However, six species were confirmed breeders in Central Park in 2008 that were not recorded in 1998: Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Chipping Sparrow, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Green Heron.
The most common breeding bird in both years was the American Robin, with 205 pairs in 1998 and 193 pairs in 2008. Common Grackles were the second-most common in 1998, as were Blue Jays in 2008. The total confirmed number of breeding pairs was very similar in 1998 and 2008: there were 358 pairs in 1998 and 349 pairs in 2008 (excluding robins, the number was even closer: 153 pairs in 1998 and 156 pairs in 2008).
View the 2008 Central Park Census Observations.