Whether you’re upstate or in the city, Birding in New York State boasts a huge variety of important habitats. Between forests, lakes, grasslands, rivers, marshes and wetlands, New York provides a home for a vast array of plant and animal life.
The bird life in New York State is particularly special. In fact, the diverse habitats attract over 240 species of birds that breed within the state, and a further 450 different bird species that call New York State their home for at least part of the year. Of course this means that Birdwatching here is pretty special. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or just starting out, here’s some tips to get the most out of your birding experience.
Hot-spots for Birding in New York State
The State of New York covers a whopping 54,555 square miles, so to get the best from your Birding in New York State, you’ll need to know where to go.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
You don’t have to go far from the hustle and bustle of New York City to immerse yourself in nature. Created in the 1950’s, The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is just a couple of miles from JFK airport and boasts over 12,600 acres of water, salt-marshes, freshwater and brackish water ponds, upland fields and woods, and open bay and islands.
Alongside more than 40 species of shorebirds have been recorded at Jamaica Bay. Barn Owls also nest on the refuge, and Short-eared Owl are spotted over the grassland in winter. If you’re lucky during winter, you may even spot the rare Lapland Longspur or Snow Bunting.
Of course, it wouldn’t be birding in New York State without mentioning Central Park. Located in the heart of the city, over 280 species of birds have been recorded in this 843-acre park, making it an excellent spot for bird lovers.
South of 79th Street is the most popular spot, The Ramble. In New York City, the best time for birding is during the spring migration which spans March to June, with peak songbird migration occurring between mid-April and mid-May.
If it’s gulls you’re after in New York State, you’ll definitely want to head to Niagara Falls. During fall, the open rich waters become a haven for gulls. The most unique of which, is the Bonaparte’s Gull. During their migration, up to 30,000 Bonaparte’s gull’s can be seen in one day – almost 10% of the world’s population!
In total, over 27 species of gull have been spotted in Niagara Falls, including many rare species, so it’s no surprise it’s been dubbed the number one place in the world to watch gulls
New York State Birding Trail
Alongside these hotspots, there are numerous popular birding trails in New York State, most notably the New York State Birding Trail. This isn’t a conventional trail, and is therefore not connected physically, but offers a network of the top 300 spots in the area for a high-quality birding experience. Compiled by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the NYS birding trail map can be found here.
These are just a few examples of the fantastic spots New York State has to offer. If you’re heading further afield, check out the Top 10 Birdwatching Parks in the USA.
How to Help Birds During Migration
During the Spring and Fall migrations in particular, you may want to think about how you can do your bit to help our feathered friends during their long journeys. Migratory birds are at particular risk of collisions with manmade structures like windows.
Make your windows more bird-friendly by attaching temporary decals so that birds can see the window and minimise the risk of injury. If you’re in the city and want more info on birdwatching hot-spots in the city, as well as some advice on how to look after our visiting birds, take a look at this blog post.
Birdwatching Apps USA
In a digital age, many of us are turning to smartphone apps to log our bird sightings, identify species and connect with like-minded birders. Here are some of the top apps to get the most out of your Birding in New York State:
Merlin Bird ID
The Merlin Bird ID app is a totally free app, suitable for beginners, and is particularly adept at helping you to identify your sightings. This app is relatively new, only hitting the app stores in January 2023 but already includes 350 species and covers most North American birds. By asking you a series of questions, the app narrows down a list of possible ID’s, therefore teaching you about ID features as you go along.
BirdsEye North America
For more experienced birders, this app is most useful at helping you work out where to go for the best birding experience. BirdsEye utilises GPS data and sightings reported to Cornell’s eBird database to help guide you to birding locations and show you where notable species have been spotted in your area. The app uses this data to generates maps and real-time bar charts displaying the visiting species. It also has a feature to log your sightings as you go, and comes in at $19.99.
An all-rounder, Birda combines bird ID features, an interactive birding map and inclusive community in one handy free app. Suitable for beginners and experienced bird lovers alike, this app gives users the opportunity to log their sightings, participate in challenges and be a part of a community of like-minded birders. The interactive map uses data from over 1 billion sightings to find new places in your local area to go birding.
If you want to know more about birdwatching apps available in the USA, take a look at this helpful blog post.
Birding in New York State offers fantastic opportunities to observe a huge array of birds, and depending on the time of year, the chance to see some fascinating species undertaking their long migrations. Whether you’re lucky enough to live in the area, or just visiting, you’re sure to have a great birding trip.