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New York’s 11 Best Bird-Watching Spots this Summer

Written by Kirstin Opal
Published: September 28, 2022
Image Credit railway fx/Shutterstock.com
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Over 450 different bird species visit our country on occasion each year. A range of ecosystems, encompassing woodlands, meadows, mountains, ponds, rivers, marshes, conifer barrens, dunes, and coastlines draw both birds and people all over the state. In New York, there are thousands of acres of high-quality habitats that provide uncommon chances to see many different kinds of birds in state and national parks, wildlife management areas, and bird and nature preserve around the state and close to your home. 

If you are an experienced birdwatcher or you are just starting to learn more about birds, let A to Z Animals be your companion to the best birding possibilities in your neighborhood and across the state.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Whether you are a beginner or have a long life list, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is an excellent site to view birds. Several birds stop here on their spring and autumn migrations, and two freshwater ponds that Robert Moses created are a major lure. The refuge is home to a large number of birds all year long. 

The sanctuary has seen more than 300 distinct species. Open every day is the shelter. On both the East and West Ponds, there are bird blinds and walking trails. Please bring shoes that can get dirty if you intend to visit the East Pond.

Yellow Warbler, Osprey, Barn Owl, Boat-tailed Grackle, Willet, Great Blue Heron, and Great and Snowy Egrets, are visitor’s favorite breeding birds at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. If you’re lucky, you may see an American Avocet, Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits, Wilson’s Phalarope. 

Even on infrequently dull days, it’s enjoyable to sit beneath the trees of the South Garden, take in one of the Northeast’s finest urban sanctuaries, and listen to the cacophonous roar of cicadas.

Four white egrets in the water in New York
Jamaica Bay in Queens, New York is home to snowy egrets

David W. Leindecker/Shutterstock.com

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

A driving path linking birding areas surrounding the Montezuma NWR and Wetlands Complex, north of Cayuga Lake, is known as the Montezuma Birding (and Nature) Trail. It runs halfway between Rochester and Syracuse, New York. The Complex has been classified as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society due to its importance as a stopover and nesting habitat. 

The refuge offers vital habitat for ducks, marsh birds, shorebirds, raptors, warblers, woodpeckers, and other species during migration and breeding. Many of Central New York’s animal species find food, shelter, water, and space in its various habitats of marsh, grassland, shrubland, and woodland. The Refuge serves as a breeding, feeding, resting, and nesting place for waterfowl and other migratory species. Some people live there all year round.

A white egret in a marsh
Montezuma National Refuge is home to many migratory birds

Benjamin F. Haith/Shutterstock.com

Jones Beach State Park

Jones Beach, a popular tourist destination in New York City, is situated on a 6.5-mile-long barrier island off the southwest coast of Long Island. However, over half of the park consists of salt marshes, sand dunes, stream outlets, and ephemeral pools, where you may witness a variety of animals. Numerous migrating bird species stop at Jones Beach for a break or to pass by on their way to breeding or wintering areas because it is located along the Atlantic Flyway. 

Its marshes provide a haven for wading birds and waterfowl, while a few animal species call its dunes home. Several fish species and other marine life also congregate there according to long-established cycles, either offshore, on the beach, or in a stream.

Observe hundreds of hawks, kestrels, falcons, and osprey fly over during peak migration in the fall from the boardwalk viewing platform. On their trek south, tens of thousands of monarch butterflies arrive in the fall. 

With a decent set of binoculars, you can view harbor seals when they emerge in the surf or haul out on the rocks each winter. In the months of December through March, snowy owls are frequently seen in the area. 

A boat on a sandy beach in New York
Jones Beach State Park houses falcons, kestrels, and osprey

Joe Trentacosti/Shutterstock.com

Central Park

Despite what it would appear, birders from all over the world go to Manhattan to go birdwatching. Islands of green scream out to travelers traveling over Central Park in the middle of towering buildings, concrete, and asphalt. Such modest green places, like Bryant Park, may draw year-round residents as well as migratory birds

Central Park is regarded as one of the top birding locations in the northern hemisphere due to the potential concentration of migratory birds there. A record of 340 species, including 39 warbler species, have been identified in the municipality. As they seek to negotiate the geography of the City while migrating, surprising species like the Virginia Rail, Sora, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Saltmarsh Sparrow, and, in especially, American Woodcock, frequently appear in the most unlikely of locations. 

The White-tailed Tropicbird, South Polar Skua, Anhinga, Purple Gallinule, Rufous Hummingbird, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Couch’s Kingbird, Harris’s Sparrow, Swainson’s Warbler, and Kirtland’s Warbler are some of the more uncommon species that have been recorded over time.

new york city
Warblers, sparrows, hummingbirds, and more live in New York’s Central Park

IM_photo/Shutterstock.com

Niagara Falls

There are a variety of birds in and near Niagara Falls, New York. A birdwatcher’s heaven, Niagara Falls, USA is home to over 19 species of gulls. This includes bald eagles, peregrine falcons, ducks, and geese. Along the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, in Niagara Falls State Park, birders may make use of the many viewing opportunities to take in this ever-changing activity all year long. 

In the fall and winter, vast numbers of waterfowl, including canvasbacks, common mergansers, common goldeneyes, and other diving ducks, can be observed at Niagara Falls State Park. These birds include Bonaparte’s, herring, and ring-billed gulls. Then, in the spring and summer, birdwatchers can see double-crested cormorants, black-crowned night herons, great blue herons, and a breeding colony of ring-billed gulls close to Cave of the Winds on Goat Island, one of the world’s most popular birding destinations. 

The Niagara River is well-known for its gulls and other migratory birds, earning it the designation of Important Bird Area (IBA) of worldwide significance. The abundance of fish, crayfish, and mussels in the region helps the migrants refuel for lengthy trips. Goat Island, Whirlpool State Park, Artpark, and Fort Niagara State Park are all must-see locations for birders along the Niagara River.

Niagra Falls in New York
Niagra Falls has lots to offer birdwatchers in New York

warasit phothisuk/Shutterstock.com

Tifft Nature Preserve

The Niagara River is well-known for its gulls and other migratory birds, earning it the designation of Important Bird Area (IBA) of worldwide significance. It’s home to the Tifft Nature Preserve. The abundance of fish, crayfish, and mussels in the region helps the migrants refuel for lengthy trips. Goat Island, Whirlpool State Park, Artpark, and Fort Niagara State Park are all must-see locations for birders along the Niagara River.

A cattail marsh and a variety of other plants and animals may be found in Tifft. Its main claim to fame is birds, to the point where the National Audubon Society has designated it an Important Bird Area. The area’s 264 acres include five miles of pathways that go through forests and wetlands. Its proximity to the city’s center is best. 

From Canalside, a 15-minute bicycle ride takes you along the Buffalo River, through the Old First Ward, under the Ohio Street Bridge, and then down Route 5. To get you started, some signs feature images of birds. However, traveling alongside an expert birder is beneficial. 

If you don’t know any, there’s a decent chance you’ll run with Tifft birders who will share their knowledge. A Least Bittern, a little heron that lurks in the bushes, and a Black-Capped Chickadee are some of the many birds you’ll find here.

White tern taking flight over water
The Tifft Nature Preserve in Buffalo is Great For Birdwatchers

Pierre Williot/Shutterstock.com

Derby Hill Bird Observatory​

One of the best hawk-watching locations in the Northeastern United States is Onondaga Audubon’s Derby Hill, which is situated on the southeast corner of Lake Ontario in Oswego County, New York. The early 1970s saw the beginning of hawk sightings at the location, which has been undertaken annually and in a consistent manner since 1979. 

This location is among the top spring locations in the nation since it regularly counts 40,000 raptors as they travel north. Derby Hill is known for its hawks, eagles, and vultures, but you may also see large numbers of Snow Geese, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Blue Jays, and Baltimore Orioles here as they migrate.

Beginning in early March and lasting through the end of May, at which time the majority of migratory raptors may be anticipated, is the hawk watch season. Outside of this time, favorable weather patterns in February may cause Rough-legged, Red-tailed, and Golden eagle migrations to begin early, while young Bald eagles and Broad-winged hawk movements continue until June. 

The fundamental cause of the avian influx at Derby Hill is geography. Most birds use thermals to conserve energy when migrating since thermals do not exist across the water. The majority of birds that are migrating north in the spring and reach Lake Ontario veer east and follow the lake’s shoreline until they can turn north once more to complete their journey. The location of Derby Hill is ideal for birds to circle the corner of the popular lake. 

white tailed hawk
Derby Hill in New York is a top spot for watching hawks

iStock.com/neil bowman

Marshlands Conservancy

A 147-acre wildlife refuge, Marshlands Conservancy is made up of a variety of ecosystems. Here, you may explore and enjoy the coastline, salt marsh, forest, and grassland. Along the Long Island Sound, there are three miles of paths and a half mile of beach. Marshlands, which lies in the Atlantic migratory flyway, is a great place to go bird watching. 

There have been reports of more than 230 species. One of the few salt marshes in New York that the general public may visit for research and recreation is the Marshlands. The state’s biggest remaining mainland salt marsh is found in this paradise for birdwatchers, which also protects endangered species such as the Common Loon, American Bittern, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, and Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Wet marshland with grasses
The Marshlands Conservancy is a 147 acre refuge with osprey, bald eagle, harriers, and hawks

debra millet/Shutterstock.com

The Peconic Estuary 

A popular pastime in the Peconic Estuary is birdwatching. It’s a terrific area to see animals. Shorebirds like the piping plover, terns, and osprey, as well as different waterfowl, may be found close to the sea. Warblers, hawks, and owls may be seen in the nearby woodlands and meadows.

The Peconic Estuary, a shallow, well-mixed estuary situated between the North and South sides of Long Island, New York, is a body of water between two forks. The watershed’s 128,000 acres or so flow into the estuary’s 155,000 acres, which is linked to the Atlantic Ocean. The Peconic Estuary is home to 140 regionally and internationally unique species and displays a wide array of coastal and underwater habitats.

Canada warbler singing on a branch
Warblers are spotted across the Peconic Estuary

Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock.com

Bashakill Wildlife Management Area

Northeastern birders travel from all around to visit this superb birding location in Sullivan County’s southeast. The majority visit in April and May to search for migratory birds that pause to rest and feed in the nearby trees and bushes of the huge wetlands, although the birding is superb for much of the year. 

Vast views to the north and south are available from Haven Road, and migratory birds frequently soar overhead. Bald eagle sightings are now common throughout the year in Sullivan County. The Delaware River region and the Rio/Mongaup Valley both have clearly identified eagle viewing sites, and winter can bring the highest numbers.

Numerous endangered species are also found there, such as American Black Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, American and Least Bitterns, Ospreys, Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, and Sharp-shinned Hawks.

An American bittern standing by the water on a sunny day.
The endangered American Bittern can be spotted at Bashakill Management Area

iStock.com/Marianne Pfeil

Adirondack Park

The Adirondack Mountains in northern New York present a challenge for birders during the insect season. On the one hand, in the spring, the forest changes from quiet white to active green, and migrants return to benefit from the newly opened habitats and the abundance of insect food. 

Even while the mating season has a far greater variety of birds than the remainder of the year, certain notable Adirondack specialties are year-round inhabitants. The Northeastern United States’ Adirondack Mountains are among the best areas to witness species including the black-backed woodpecker, boreal chickadee, and gray jay. Several boreal species, including red and white-winged crossbills, are less often observed and exhibit significant seasonal variation in food availability. 

You can only find this species in the isolated coniferous boreal habitat fragments that make up the Adirondack Mountains’ bogs and streams. This ecosystem makes up a large portion of Canada

Numerous of these coniferous ecosystems is a component of more expansive ecological mosaics, which are intricate ecosystems where boreal habitat joins deciduous woodland or alder-covered streams. As a result, the region is home to a great variety of species, most prominently the rainbow of warblers.

Black-backed woodpecker
Black-backed woodpeckers are common in Adirondack Park

Carrie Olson/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs, her 14-year-old dog, or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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