15. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, New York
“Who would guess that within New York City there is such an opportunity to observe wildlife right next to a major airport?” asks Diane Cohen of Oakland Gardens, New York. Yet it’s true. The largest city in the United States is home to a favorite hotspot.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge isn’t far from JFK International Airport, yet a total of 330 species, including 72 nesting species, have been recorded there. What’s more, Jamaica Bay’s prime location and wildlife-friendly management recently earned it a globally important bird area designation.
The National Park Service-managed refuge provides a green oasis 20 miles square in the middle of metropolitan New York for birds as well as butterflies, turtles, mammals, and other critters. New Yorkers love escaping to its quiet natural beauty. Peter Di Maria of Brooklyn particularly enjoys watching for migrants in spring and the 500 to 600 Snow Geese that spend the winter on the refuge.
Beth Liebmann is no New Yorker (she hails from Fairfax, Virginia), but she counts Jamaica Bay among her top hotspots because of its proximity to millions of people. “It’s one of my favorite hotspots because birding can be enjoyed by those who live in nearby cities without spending a day in the car,” she writes. “It’s also accessible to everyone regardless of their financial ability to travel to far-off places. Refuges such as Jamaica Bay remind us to appreciate daily the beauty of birds and wildlife right in our own backyards.”
Location: Near JFK International Airport, on Crossbay Blvd. in Brooklyn and Queens, New York • Best time to visit: Peak migration period is April and May, but birding here is great year-round; fall shorebirds occur July through September • Birds: Snow Goose, Brant, Eurasian Wigeon, Tricolored Heron, Osprey, Clapper Rail, owls, shorebirds, and warblers • Contact: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: (718) 318-4340; Gateway National Recreation Area; New York City Audubon Society: (212) 691-7483; Linnaean Society of New York: (212) 252-2668; Brooklyn Bird Club