The famous greenspace in New York City is a great spot to see warblers, tanagers, flycatchers, waterfowl, and sparrows.
By Phil Jeffrey | Published: 10/22/2008
Prospect Park’s wide mix of habitats — woodlands, ponds, streams, and a lake — attracts many different bird species. The relatively flat terrain and extensive trails and paths make all areas easy to access. Plus, the centrally located Audubon Center offers hands-on nature exhibits and workshops.
Migrant warblers flying over New York City head straight for oases such as Prospect Park at dawn. During spring and fall migrations, I’ve had many memorable experiences here. In early to late May, I’ve found 20 or more warbler species, along with tanagers, flycatchers, and sparrows. Fall migration, with numbers swelled by the year’s juvenile birds, is no less spectacular but occurs over a longer period. The peak is mid- to late September. On certain days, migration fallouts can be spectacular.
In winter, the lake attracts waterfowl like Northern Shoveler, and woodlands may be filled with White-throated Sparrows. Rarities are always possible. In recent years, Purple Gallinule, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Lesser Black-backed Gull have turned up. Summer is the time for typical suburban birds. Acadian Flycatcher nested here in 2007. — Phil Jeffrey
Phil Jeffrey is an avid birder and photographer. He runs the bird sightings email list eBirdsNYC.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Lawn, forest, streams, ponds, and a lake.
Generally flat with multiple paths and trails. Some paths are wheelchair-accessible.
About 270 species. Fall and winter: Pied-billed Grebe, Wood and Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shoveler, Hooded Merganser, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and Red-tailed Hawks, Fox and White-throated Sparrows. Spring: woodpeckers, flycatchers, Eastern Kingbird, swallows, tanagers, Red-eyed, Blue-headed, and Warbling Vireos, Veery, Swainson’s, Hermit, and Wood Thrushes, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Pine, Blackpoll, Canada, and many other warblers. Rarities: Sedge Wren, Purple Gallinule, Red-necked Phalarope, Blue Grosbeak (at least 10 records since 2001), Bohemian Waxwing.
When to go
Spring and fall migrations, in particular May and September, have the best diversity. Early winter until the lake freezes.
Prospect Park Audubon Center open 12-5 Thursday through Sunday, with reduced hours during the winter, (718) 287-3400. Free Introduction to Birdwatching tours every Saturday, 12-1:30, at Audubon Center. Restrooms at multiple locations. Food and drink.
City park. Free. Open 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day. Well served by subway (F, 2, 3, Q, and B lines), multiple bus routes, and taxis. Street parking challenging. Free parking at Wollman Rink off of Ocean Ave.
For more info
Hotspot Near You No. 33, February 2008. Warblers and other migrants in spring and fall, plus nesting Monk Parakeets.
Floyd Bennett Field
Six miles southeast on Flatbush Ave. Hawks, owls, and falcons in winter. Grasshopper Sparrow, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark in spring.