Located along the Atlantic Flyway, Central Park welcomes more than 270 bird species each year. Many birds live in the Park year-round, with others making an important stop in the Park to rest and feed during spring and fall migrations. Discover how to spot and appreciate the many birds of Central Park.
The basics of seasonal migration
Billions of birds travel thousands of miles each spring and fall along different flyways—in other words, routes. Birds don’t necessarily migrate because of temperature. However, when it gets cold, a lot of their food sources may disappear. Insects die or hibernate, and trees stop producing leaves and berries, so migration is essentially a global search for food.
Central Park is a popular stopover for birds thanks to its diverse habitats. The Park’s trees and shrubs provide safe places to nest and offer food in the form of seeds and berries. Birds can also take advantage of the Park’s vast insect life. The Park’s water bodies, many of them adjacent to the woodlands, are welcome homes for aquatic birds.
Tips for birdwatching in Central Park and beyond
Looking for birds is all about patience, luck, and movement. The best times of day to go birdwatching are early mornings and late afternoons, when birds are the most active. To begin, let your eyes relax and scan trees, shrubs, and bushes for movement. When you first spot a bird, bring your binoculars up to your eyes without looking away from it. This will ensure you don’t lose sight of the winged wildlife. “Binoculars are for after you spot the birds,” says Chris Madden, Central Park Guide. “You don’t need them all the time."
Ready to identify a bird? Bring a guide or download an app to your phone, such as this one from the National Audubon Society. Make note of its shape, bill, and markings. Birds can also be distinguished based on where they’re seen (on the ground, or at the top of a tree) and what they’re doing (feeding, pecking, or flying).