Central Park

A view of the Central Park Lake from the Oak Bridge entrance to the Ramble. Photo: Bill Benish/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Birding Highlights by the Season

(no star = birding is not very productive, = somewhat productive, ✸✸ = productive, ✸✸✸ = very productive)
 
Spring Migration ✸✸✸ 
Flycatchers, cuckoos, warblers, vireos, kinglets, tanagers, grosbeaks, and other songbirds; wading birds and waterfowl; freshwater sandpipers
 
Summer ✸✸    
Nesting Red-tailed Hawk, Great Crested Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole; foraging wading birds
 
Fall Migration ✸✸✸ 
Warblers, thrushes, sparrows, and other songbirds; raptors
 
Winter ✸✸
Mixed songbird flocks and occasional winter finches; owls and accipiters; wintering waterfowl and gulls
 
Year-Round Highlights
Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, common woodpeckers


Get Oriented

View a Google map of Central Park. The Central Park Entire smart phone app, which includes a map of Central Park labeled with major landmarks used by birders (and every single tree species!), can also be a very helpful navigation tool in the Park.
The rare “Brewster’s Warbler" (a hybrid of Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers). Photo: <a href="https://www.pbase.com/btblue" target="_blank">Lloyd Spitalnik</a>
The rare “Brewster’s Warbler" (a hybrid of Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers). Photo: Lloyd Spitalnik
The 2018 appearance of a Kirtland’s Warbler was a first for Central Park. Photo: <a href="https://www.lilibirds.com/" target="_blank">David Speiser</a>
The 2018 appearance of a Kirtland’s Warbler was a first for Central Park. Photo: David Speiser
Cerulean Warblers occasionally show up in Central Park during migration. Photo: <a href="https://www.lilibirds.com/" target="_blank">David Speiser</a>
Cerulean Warblers occasionally show up in Central Park during migration. Photo: David Speiser
Central Park, an 843-acre rectangle that stretches north-south 2 ½ miles and east-west ½ mile, was designed in 1858 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. In 1965, it was designated a National Historic Landmark and in 1974, became New York City’s first Scenic Landmark. The Central Park Conservancy, a nonprofit organization, manages the park under contract with the City of New York/Parks and Recreation. The Conservancy provides the bulk of the Park’s annual operating budget, funds major capital improvements, supports horticultural care and management, and offers programs for volunteers and visitors.
 
Central Park is one of the finest birding spots in the United States, attracting birders from all over the world. Birds migrating along the East Coast in both spring and fall find Central Park a welcoming place to rest and store up energy for the next leg of their journey. On a single “wave” or “fallout” day, as many as 30 warbler species may be seen, establishing the Park as one of the most famous warbler “traps” in North America. Since the creation of Central Park, more than 280 bird species have been recorded here; 192 are regular visitors or year-round residents and over 88 are infrequent or rare visitors.
A Great Egret forages with waterfowl in the Pond, by the Gapstow Bridge. Photo: <a href=\"https://www.flickr.com/photos/larrycloss/\" target=\"_blank\">Larry Closs</a> "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> A Great Egret forages with waterfowl in the Pond, by the Gapstow Bridge. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/larrycloss/" target="_blank">Larry Closs</a>

Birding Hotspots of Central Park, from 59th to 110th Streets

In 1998, Central Park was designated an Important Bird Area in New York State by National Audubon for the significance of its man-made avian habitats, which include meadows, grassy hillocks, rocky crags, woodlands, ravines, streams, ponds, lakes, and a reservoir. Read about the best and most popular birding areas below, from 59th to 110th Streets.
The Wood Duck (foreground) is a frequent sighting on the Central Park Pond; in 2019, it and other native waterfowl were joined by a much admired escaped male Mandarin Duck. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/redtail10025/" target="_blank">Melody Andres</a>
The Wood Duck (foreground) is a frequent sighting on the Central Park Pond; in 2019, it and other native waterfowl were joined by a much admired escaped male Mandarin Duck. Photo: Melody Andres
The Southeast Corner: The Pond and the Hallett Nature Sanctuary
Though smaller than Central Park’s two largest natural areas, the Ramble and the North End, the Park’s southeast corner combines rich natural habitat and fresh water to create an extremely accessible and picturesque wildlife-watching spot. The descriptively named “Pond,” located just inside the Park at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, hosts a regular contingent of ducks that often includes Wood Duck and other less common species (including, in 2019, an escaped male Mandarin Duck that took the City by storm). Black-crowned Night-Herons often roost along the Pond’s inner bank..
 
The Pond’s overhanging trees are popular with migrant warblers, vireos, and other songbirds, and the marshy areas and edge habitat north and south of the picturesque Gapstow Bridge can be particularly productive. Check for foraging swallow, and for both Northern and Louisiana Waterthrush. (Get here early, as this area can give very busy with tourists.)
 
The wooded hillside rising on the Pond’s northeastern side is the Hallett Nature Sanctuary--a protected woodland that was completely closed to visitors from 1934 to 2001. Since 2013, the Central Park Conservancy has maintained regular visiting hours and tours so that one may bird this pristine area, which attracts a good variety of land birds during migration. 
Northern Flickers pass through Central Park in large numbers during migration; a few regularly stay to breed. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/144871758@N05/" target="_blank">Ryan F. Mandelbaum</a>
Northern Flickers pass through Central Park in large numbers during migration; a few regularly stay to breed. Photo: Ryan F. Mandelbaum
Dene Slope and Sheep Meadow
Just north of the 65th Street transverse lie two open areas that offer both iconic views and excellent birding, particularly during migration. On the east side is the Dene Slope, a wildflower meadow that is a recent creation of the Central Park Conservancy. Native wildflowers and grasses here provide excellent habitat for both bees, butterflies, and birds. Check for low-foraging warblers such as Common Yellowthroat, Magnolia Warbler, and Orange-crowned Warbler (particularly in late fall), and for sparrows including Lincoln’s. You may spot hunting raptors here, including year-round American Kestrel  and Red-tailed Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk (during migration and over the winter). 
 
The sprawling Sheep Meadow is a very popular spot with sunbathers and revelers during the warmer months, but early birders that beat the crowd may find grassland species such as Eastern Meadowlark or American Pipit here during migration, as well as mixed sparrow flocks and ground-foraging Northern Flickers. The edge habitat around the meadow is attractive to warblers and other migrants.
The originals: Pale Male and Lola on their Fifth Avenue Nest, circa 2005 . Photo: Rik Davis
The originals: Pale Male and Lola on their Fifth Avenue Nest, circa 2005 . Photo: Rik Davis
Nesting Red-tailed Hawks
Since 1994, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks has nested on an ornamental window pediment of a Fifth Avenue apartment at 74th Street. The best vantage for observing nesting and fledging activities is from the west side of Central Park’s model boat pond (Conservatory Water). During April, May, and June, a scope trained on the nest is likely to be at this location. Don’t hesitate to ask if you can take a look. Central Park birders are pleased to share the antics of the red-tails. 
 
Several other Red-tailed Hawk pairs now nest in other areas in or near Central Park, and Red-tails have become a commonplace sighting throughout the park, year-round. As they hunt for Gray Squirrels, Rock Pigeons, and other unwary prey, they provide a striking bit of “Wild America” right in Manhattanites’ “back yard.” Fledglings can be rather clumsy and unconcerned around humans; make sure to keep a respectful distance, and enjoy the show. Learn more about the incredible rise of Red-tailed Hawks in New York City in the past few decades on our Red-tailed Hawks in NYC page. 
A few Summer Tanagers are found by alert birders, each migration season in Central Park. Photo: <a href="https://www.lilibirds.com/" target="_blank">David Speiser</a>
A few Summer Tanagers are found by alert birders, each migration season in Central Park. Photo: David Speiser
Approaching the Ramble from the West: Strawberry Fields, Summit Rock, and Sparrow Rock
The Ramble, the 37-acre jumble of wooded hills (Olmsted’s “wilderness”) in the center of the Park, runs from 72nd Street to 79th Street. You can approach this world-famous birding area from various vantage points—and on your way, stop first at one of several high points in the Park that catch first light, and attract hungry migrants that feast on hatching insect larvae in the spring. 
 
From the West Side at 72nd Street, start at Strawberry Fields, a long meadows bordered by tall oaks and other trees that attract migrating warblers, tanagers, orioles, and grosbeaks—as well as shrubby areas popular with thrushes and sparrows. You can walk down a winding path at Strawberry Fields’ northern end, and cross the West Drive (watch for speeding cyclists) to the Lake.

Check both sides of the Balcony Bridge; which crosses a small creek that enters the Lake. The west side overlooks a shady ravine that is a popular bathing stop for birds, and a very good waterthrush spot. A smaller bridge crossing to the west, Triplets Bridge, also provides a good vantage point, and the meadows along the pathway heading north are a good spot for mixed sparrow flocks. Either way, you can then enter the Ramble across the Oak Bridge.

Check for waterthrushes (here, a Northern) at the Balcony Bridge. Photo: François Portmann "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Check for waterthrushes (here, a Northern) at the Balcony Bridge. Photo: François Portmann
 
Another options is to enter the park at 81st or 85th and climb to the top of Summit Rock, another open area bordered by tall oaks that can be full of songbirds; the shaded woods here are also popular with thrushes. Tanner’s Spring, just south of Summit Rock, is a small natural water source where birds often come to drink and bathe; later in the morning, this spot can stay productive when other areas quiet down.
 
If you head to Turtle Pond or the Ramble from Summit Rock, after crossing West Drive, stop by the aptly Sparrow Rock. There are actually several large rocky outcroppings in this area, interspersed with patches of wildflowers, shrubs, and trees, and during migration the habitat can be quite lively with warblers, and yes, sparrows. 
Lincoln’s Sparrows are observed in Central Park every migration season. Photo: <a href="https://www.fotoportmann.com/" target="_blank">François Portmann</a>
Lincoln’s Sparrows are observed in Central Park every migration season. Photo: François Portmann
Approaching the Ramble from the East: Pilgrim, Pine, Cherry, and Cedar Hills
If you’re coming from the east, several high points provide good early birding to hungry migrants, as well as occasional out-of-the-way roosting spots for owls. Entering at 72nd Street, Pilgrim Hill (named for its commemorative statue to the “Pilgrim Fathers”) is just north of the transverse and makes a convenient first stop. Check for flycatchers, sparrows, and other songbirds. 
 
Just northwest, overlooking the lake’s boat dock, is “Pine Hill,” recognizable by the grove of evergreens (which include both Eastern White and Austrian Pines) at its peak. These trees have hosted roosting Great Horned, Barred, and Barn Owl at different times (please be careful to avoid disturbing any owls you find), and the hill is a good spot for other evergreen-loving species like kinglets and Red-breasted Nuthatch, along with warblers and sparrows.

Cherry Hill lies even further inside the park, west of Bethesda Fountain and directly south of the Bow Bridge. The hill’s grassy crown is adorned with two rows of pin oaks planted at right angles that attract flocks of birds in spring, and its open areas attract flocks of sparrows along with ground-feeding warblers such as Palm Warbler.

The nasal call of the Red-breasted Nuthatch can be heard during migration and over the winter; numbers vary from year to year. Photo: <a href=\"https://www.lloydspitalnik.com/index\" target=\"_blank\">Lloyd Spitalnik</a> "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> The nasal call of the Red-breasted Nuthatch can be heard during migration and over the winter; numbers vary from year to year. Photo: <a href="https://www.lloydspitalnik.com/index" target="_blank">Lloyd Spitalnik</a>
If you enter the park from north of the Ramble on the east side, Cedar Hill is a good stop; named for the Eastern Red Cedars that grace it, this is another spot to check for migrants as well as evergreen-loving species, including owls.
Often one or two Barred Owls winter in Central Park. Photo: <a href="https://www.fotoportmann.com/" target="_blank">François Portmann</a>
Often one or two Barred Owls winter in Central Park. Photo: François Portmann
A Note on Wintering Owls
As many as six species of owl winter in the park. Great-horned, Barred, and Northern Saw-whet owls are the most common of the wintering owls. Long-eared Owls have become less frequent in recent years, and Barn Owls and Screech-Owls are quite rare. Please keep a respectful distance from roosting owls, so as not to disturb them; once flushed, they may be unable to escape harassing crows and jays. (If an owl is staring right at you, you are probably too close to it!) Read more about "Responsible Owl-Watching" on our Birding Law & Ethics page.
A view of the Central Park Lake from the Ramble shoreline. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/larrycloss/" target="_blank">Larry Closs</a>
A view of the Central Park Lake from the Ramble shoreline. Photo: Larry Closs
Central Park Lake
As you head to the Ramble, you can’t miss the Central Park Lake, which creates the Ramble’s southern edge. From the Lake’s shore you may see a variety of waterfowl on the Lake, including Northern Shoveler (in winter), Wood Duck, and Double-crested Cormorant, as well as wading birds such as Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and Green Heron. Black-crowned Night-Herons often roost in low willows over the water--both by Hernsead and along the edge of "the Point," the wooded peninsula that juts south from the Ramble. 
 
Belted Kingfisher can been seen (and heard) fishing here, and during migration the brushy lake edges are popular with Eastern Phoebe, Swamp Sparrow, and warblers including both waterthrush species. Many springs, a Prothonotary Warbler may be found foraging along the Lake’s shaded northern shoreline. In summer, nesting Warbling Vireo, Eastern Kingbird, and Baltimore Oriole can be heard vocalizing all around the Lake.

The wooded, rocky peninsula of Hernshead on the Lake’s western side is always a worthwhile stop. It provides a good vantage point on any waterbirds on the Lake, and holds some excellent marshy edge habitat on both the northern and southern sides. Move slowly along the path that traces its southern edge, as birds often quietly forage here and will be flushed if you move too fast. 

Prothonotary Warblers are among the species that “overshoot” in the spring, coming a bit too far north before returning further south to breed. Photo: Steve Nanz "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Prothonotary Warblers are among the species that “overshoot” in the spring, coming a bit too far north before returning further south to breed. Photo: Steve Nanz

On the northern shore of Hernshead, willows hanging over the water, visible from large flat rocks just northwest of the tip, are often full of warblers and flycatchers. Waterthrushes also love this area. Search carefully for roosting Black-crowned Night-Herons. 
The beautiful Hooded Warbler, though a fairly dependable visitor to the Ramble during migration, always brings birders running to get a good glimpse. Photo: <a href="https://www.pbase.com/btblue" target="_blank">Lloyd Spitalnik</a>
The beautiful Hooded Warbler, though a fairly dependable visitor to the Ramble during migration, always brings birders running to get a good glimpse. Photo: Lloyd Spitalnik
The Ramble
The Ramble is a world-renowned birding destination for good reason: it can provide a surreal birding experience on a lucky spring or fall day, as its diverse native plantings, naturally managed woodland, and freshwater stream attract an astounding density of migrating songbirds, often viewable at close range. 
 
Enter the Ramble proper via the Oak Bridge at the west, Bow Bridge at the south, Belvedere Castle at the north, or from various entrance points on the east side including the entrance by the Loeb Boathouse. The Boathouse includes an indoor/outdoor café to stop and rest, a more formal dining room overlooking the lake, and a longtime paper birding log, still updated in the age of eBird.
 
A well-maintained system of trails (see a map here[add LINK]) leads to many favorite birding spots known to local regulars, including the Upper Lobe, Willow Rock, Oven, Point, Azalea Pond, Summer House, Tupelo Meadow, and Maintenance Meadow, where spring and fall birds rest and feed. The Ramble’s meadows attract Palm Warblers, Hermit Thrushes, Chipping, Field, and White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, and Indigo Bunting, all gobbling seeds or chasing bugs.

The Ramble’s Azalea Pond is often very active with warblers in April and May. Photo: Cornelis Verwaal "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> The Ramble’s Azalea Pond is often very active with warblers in April and May. Photo: Cornelis Verwaal
 
Azalea Pond, the Point, Willow Rock, and Summer House all host migrating warblers of many species, as well as orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, flycatchers, cuckoos, and vireos. Thirsty migrants often come down to drink and bathe in the Gill, the Ramble’s artificial but beautifully landscaped stream, at several points where crossing bridges can offer close views of coveted species such as Cape May or Blackburnian Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Scarlet (and occasionally Summer) Tanager.

On the first warm days of May, be on the look-out for a “termite hatch-out,” when termites hatch out of rotting logs in these naturally maintained woodlands. Though to the uninitiated this may sound like something to be avoided at all costs, songbirds flock to such a hatch-out in droves—and birds of all sorts may be oblivious to onlookers at they feed very low down and on the ground, and flutter back and forth to catch the slow-flying insects.

A Scarlet Tanager feasts at a “termite hatch-out” in the Central Park Ramble. Photo: François Portmann "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> A Scarlet Tanager feasts at a “termite hatch-out” in the Central Park Ramble. Photo: François Portmann
 
In late summer, Jewelweed patches in the Oven and by the Upper Lobe are some of the surest opportunities in the City to watch feeding Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. In fall, fruiting trees are crowded with feeding Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Cedar Waxwing, and up to six thrush species. In winter through spring, the feeding station at Evodia Field provides some very leisurely birding, and occasional rarities. Check here in May for visiting Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. If feeding birds are ambushed by a hunting Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk, escaping birds explode in all directions.
Turtle Pond is one of the best spots in the park to find a Belted Kingfisher.  <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/puttefin/5065886781/" target="_blank">Photo</a>: Kelly Colgan Azar/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/" target="_blank" >CC BY-ND 2.0</a>
Turtle Pond is one of the best spots in the park to find a Belted Kingfisher. Photo: Kelly Colgan Azar/CC BY-ND 2.0
Turtle Pond, Belvedere Castle, and Shakespeare Garden
North of the Ramble lies Turtle Pond, just south of the Great Lawn. Many birders may pass by this area before entering the Ramble as well. The best vantage points on the pond are from Belvedere Castle, from a stone terrace at the Pond’s eastern end, and from a wooden nature-viewing walkway and platform at the pond’s northwest corner, by Delacorte Theater. The Pond may host waterfowl such as Mallards, Wood and American Black Ducks, Gadwalls, and Buffleheads. You may also find waterbirds including Great Blue and Green Heron, and if you’re lucky, Wilson’s Snipe. 
 
Depending on the season, the trees lining the Pond attract passing Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Kingbirds, Tufted Titmouse, kinglets, warblers, and orioles. True to its name, Turtle Pond is also home to five species of turtle. Both in spring and fall, Red-eared Sliders, the Park’s most common turtle, crowd each other on the rocks to bask in the sun. In summer, scan the Pickerel Weed and sedge on the north side for dragonflies. During their fall migration, hundreds of green darner dragonflies and monarch butterflies pass through as well. The shady path along the Pond’s southern edge provides great habitat for migrating warblers and flycatchers—and leads up to Belvedere Castle, and also into the Ramble.

Belvedere Castle’s grand architecture provides a viewing deck from which you can observe Turtle Pond—and watch treetop songbirds without incurring “warbler neck” (muscle strain caused by repeatedly peering upward into the treetops!). Belvedere Castle also provides the perfect spot for watching the fall migration of hawks: Ten thousand raptors (of 15 species) have been counted migrating over Central Park in a single autumn season. On a good September day, observers have tallied thousands of Broad-winged Hawk and as many as 125 American Kestrel, 75 Osprey, and 10 Bald Eagle.

Raptors like the Cooper’s Hawk migrate through Central Park; this species also spends the winter in the park. Photo: François Portmann "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Raptors like the Cooper’s Hawk migrate through Central Park; this species also spends the winter in the park. Photo: François Portmann



In early October, Peregrine Falcon come through along with the agile forest hawks known as accipiters. Accipiter migration begins in mid-September and continues into early November. In a single day, it is possible to see more than 100 Sharp-shinned Hawk, dozens of Cooper’s Hawk and, on very rare occasions, Northern Goshawk. Turkey Vulture become numerous by mid-October. 
 
In late October, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks pass over. In November and early December, the last of the migrating Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, and buteos are seen. Also in October, flocks of songbirds, such as Blue Jay, Eastern Bluebird, and Cedar Waxwing are seen as well as waterbirds, including Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Canvasback, and Greater Scaup. It is not uncommon to count several thousand Snow and Canada Geese, winging their way over this urban parkland.

A White-winged Crossbill feeds in Hemlock in the Shakespeare Garden. Photo: David Speiser "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> A White-winged Crossbill feeds in Hemlock in the Shakespeare Garden. Photo: David Speiser

The lovely hillside Shakespeare Garden, just west of the castle, is often very productive. Stop at its large semicircular stone bench and overlook: the Eastern Hemlocks and other trees along the path below often attracts warblers and nuthatches, and are a good spot to check for winter finches. 
 
The garden’s Cardinal Flower attracts hummingbirds in late summer. Check the evergreens along the grassy clearing between Belvedere Castle and the garden slope, as well as several smaller evergreens in the garden itself, which sometimes provide wintertime owl roosts. 
In recent years, a Red-headed Woodpecker has often spent the winter in Central Park. <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/billy3001/34053018085/" target="_blank">Photo</a>: Bill Benish/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/" target="_blank">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>
In recent years, a Red-headed Woodpecker has often spent the winter in Central Park. Photo: Bill Benish/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Locust Grove, Great Lawn, and Pinetum
On the west side of the Great Lawn, just north of Delacorte Theater, is the Locust Grove. Locust wood is popular with woodpeckers because it is relatively soft for digging winter roosts. Here you may see Red-bellied, Downy, and occasionally a Red-headed Woodpecker—and during migration, the tall trees are popular with warblers, orioles, and other songbirds. The Woodchip Path winding through the grove is a good spot for sparrows and thrushes. Keep an eye on the Great Lawn, viewable from all sides, for foraging swallows, hunting Peregrine Falcon and Merlin, and occasional grassland birds such as Bobolink, that may stop during migration.
 
North of the Locust Grove you enter the Arthur Ross Pinetum. This is a likely spot during migration and over the winter for Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-rumped and Pine Warblers in spring and fall. Make sure to check for signs of roosting owls—owl pellets or “whitewash” on the ground beneath the evergreens—as several species including Great Horned, Barred, and Long-eared may be found here, particularly in winter. You can you exit the Pinetum at the West Drive, or walk through the East Pinetum to exit at the east. Cross over the 86th Street Transverse to visit the Reservoir. 
Hooded Mergansers can sometimes be viewed close up along the Reservoir’s edge. Photo: <a href="https://www.pbase.com/btblue" target="_blank">Lloyd Spitalnik</a>
Hooded Mergansers can sometimes be viewed close up along the Reservoir’s edge. Photo: Lloyd Spitalnik
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
The 106-acre Reservoir stretches from 85th to 94th Street, slightly closer to the East Side (Fifth Avenue) than to the West Side (Central Park West). This sheltered body of water, no longer used as a water source for the City, provides easy waterfowl-watching through the winter (as long as it doesn’t freeze) and through April, as migrating birds stop by. Northern Shovelers, Bufflehead, Ruddy Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and American Coots are joined by smaller numbers of loons and grebes, and occasional rarities. 
 
A raised dike runs through the reservoir just below water-level, and is a favorite resting spot for cormorants and gulls; careful gull-watchers equipped with a spotting scope may find a wintering Iceland or Glaucous Gull among Herring, Ring-billed, and Great Black-backed Gulls. Watch for sudden upset among these birds, as it may indicate a hunting Peregrine Falcon—a nesting pair from the Park’s West Side often perches at the Reservoir’s north end. 
The Pool is a great spot to see waterfowl and migrating songbirds. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/edcnyc/" target="_blank">Eddie Crimmins</a>
The Pool is a great spot to see waterfowl and migrating songbirds. Photo: Eddie Crimmins
The North Woods, Pool, and Great Hill
The Park’s northern end, though perhaps less well known than the Ramble in birding circles outside NYC, boasts beautiful woodland, grassland, and wetland habitat—and attracts a diversity of birdlife to rival any other hotspot in the City. As the Ramble provides an anchor of natural habitat in the Park’s central section, the North Woods, a 90-acre natural woodland, serves this function in the northern end of the Park. (Please note that like in all the more remote areas of the park, it’s a good idea to bird here with a friend.) 
 
103rd Street and Central Park West can be useful as an entry point on the West Side, though there are a number of pedestrian entrances that provide access. A stop by the Pool may provide close views of dabbling ducks, Green Heron, or Belted Kingfisher—and its overhanging willows are popular with migrating warblers and flycatchers.

Various paths lead up through the copses and glades of the Great Hill—which can swarm with warblers, orioles, and tanagers on a big migration day in both spring and fall. The hilltop’s tall oaks, elms, and tulip poplars can be particularly productive for songbirds. 

Cape May Warblers stop in the tall trees of the Great Hill and North Woods. Photo: David Speiser "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Cape May Warblers stop in the tall trees of the Great Hill and North Woods. Photo: David Speiser



North of the North Drive lies the North Woods proper; its mature trees and naturally maintained forest floor attract many thrushes and other songbirds, and in spring, the rocky outcroppings near the Block House can provide eye-level views of warblers or tanagers foraging in the oak catkins. Take your time along the several woodland paths leading from the Great Hill to the North Woods, as these paths can also be full of warblers.
 
The High Meadow a clearing at the woods’ summit, and the Lily Ponds, a historical feature now consisting of descending ephemeral wetlands, can be superb spots for migrants. Several woodchip paths descend along the North Woods’ eastern side into the Ravine; the dense underbrush of this hillside attracts thrushes as well as less common warbler species including Hooded, and occasionally, Kentucky Warblers. 
The tumbling Loch is very attractive to songbirds like this female Baltimore Oriole. Photo: <a href="https://www.fotoportmann.com/" target="_blank">François Portmann</a>
The tumbling Loch is very attractive to songbirds like this female Baltimore Oriole. Photo: François Portmann
The Ravine, Loch, Wildflower Meadow, and Meer
The Ravine comprises wooded slopes descending to the meandering Loch, a babbling brook coursing over falls and winding through slow boggy areas from its source at the Pool. Overhung with tall hardwoods, the paths and viewing platforms along the Loch provide some of the most tranquil and thrilling birding in the Park—particularly when songbirds come to feed and bathe here in the late morning. Ovenbirds love this area, both north and south of the path that follows the Loch.
 
In the late summer and fall, when the Loch becomes alive again with migrating birds, the large beds of Jewelweed here are attractive to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. In the winter, owls and accipiters are frequently spotted roosting or hunting here. Red-tailed Hawks live in the area year-round.

Paths from the Loch’s eastern bank lead up through peaceful woods, popular with thrushes and a good spot for Winter Wren, to the Wildflower Meadow, where House Wren breeds. Ruby-crowned Kinglets, American Goldfinches, flycatchers and warblers like this low, brushy area. 

A female or young male Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeds at native Jewelweed. Photo: Will Stuart "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> A female or young male Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeds at native Jewelweed. Photo: Will Stuart
 
At its northern end, the Loch feeds under a stone bridge into The Meer, a lake that hosts waterfowl in migration and during mild winters. The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, which runs nature programs for all ages, is located on the northern shore of the Meer, accessible from 110th Street and Fifth Avenue. Immediately south of the Meer is an elevated area, Nutter’s Battery, with a series of rock outcroppings that are excellent in migration for sparrows, including less common species such as White-crowned Sparrow.
Cedar Waxwings are seen in Central Park year-round. Photo: <a href="https://www.fotoportmann.com/" target="_blank">François Portmann</a>
Cedar Waxwings are seen in Central Park year-round. Photo: François Portmann
Conservatory Garden and Compost Heap
South of the Discovery Center at Fifth Avenue and 105 Street is the entrance to the Conservatory Garden, which delights flower-lovers most of the year. In late fall, the garden’s crabapple trees are filled with American Robin, Gray Catbird, and huge flocks of Cedar Waxwing devouring the fruit. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can often be found feeding on various flowers in both the spring and fall.
 
Though it may not sound like a particularly promising destination, the park’s Compost Heap has become a popular spot for in-the-know Central Park birders. There are two areas here of open meadows and shrubby edge habitat, including a field viewable through a tall chain-link fence, that attract warblers, flycatchers, and sparrows during migration. 
Often one or two Barred Owls winter in Central Park. Photo: François Portmann "}" data-trix-content-type="undefined" class="attachment attachment--content"> Often one or two Barred Owls winter in Central Park. Photo: François Portmann

Special Birding Notes: Bird Surveys

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count, conducted each December, is coordinated by NYC Audubon in Central Park. (NYC Audubon is responsible for the Lower Hudson Count Circle, which includes all of Manhattan and parts of New Jersey.)  Learn more about the Christmas Bird Count, both in Central Park and in other parts of the City.
 
New York State Breeding Bird Atlas III , which includes Central Park and all of New York City, is in progress, conducted over five years from 2020 through 2024. NYC Audubon has also conducted several breeding birds counts in Central Park, in 1998 and 2008. Learn more about those counts, as well as how to participate in the current Atlas.

The Winter Waterfowl Count, a statewide waterfowl count, is conducted in mid-January by the New York State Ornithological Association (NYSOA). In Central Park, much of the water sometimes freezes over. But waterfowl are counted in the open water on the Meer, Pool, Reservoir, Lake, and 59th Street Pond. Many places in and around New York City are not yet counted. If you wish to participate, get in touch with the NYSOA. 

When to Go

See "Birding Highlights by the Season" above; the eBird link below also may be helpful. To learn about bird migration times and get other timing tips, see the When to Bird in NYC guide on our Birding 101 page. 

For park operating hours, see the “Directions and Visiting Info” section, below.

eBird

View eBird hotspot records for Central Park to explore recent bird sightings, species bar charts, and more. (Click on “Hotspot Map” at left to see other more specific areas of Central Park; note that in eBird, Central Park includes many hotspots.)
 
Click here for a printable Central Park bird checklist.

Personal Safety

Central Park is full of joggers, bikers, and strollers, particularly on weekends, if the weather is nice. In springtime, it also teems with birders. Nevertheless, you should take caution in the secluded spots, especially in the North Woods and the Ramble. Birding with a friend or group is a good idea not only for your safety but also for your sense of decorum, particularly in the later hours of the day. 
 
Note that while Central Park was declared “car-free” in 2018 (with the exception of the transverse roads, which are heavily used by traffic and not open to pedestrians), cyclists use the paved drives and can travel at very high speed. Always be careful when crossing paved drives and do so at marked crossing points. 
 

Guided Bird Walks

Birders team up on their own or join bird walks sponsored by NYC Audubon, Central Park Conservancy, the Linnaean Society of New York, The American Museum of Natural History, The Nature Conservancy, and the Urban Park Rangers. They also join walks led by independent naturalists. Any of these walks, which are scheduled year-round, but are most frequent during migration, provide top-notch experiences for novices and experts alike. 
 
NYC Audubon leads walk series and one-time walks in Central Park during spring and fall migration and through the winter. Visit our Local Trips page for information on upcoming walks led by NYC Audubon.
 

Directions and Visiting Info

Public transportation is the way to get to Central Park—or walking, of course!
For the Ramble and surrounding areas, easy starting points include West 72nd Street and Central Park West and East 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue.  
 
 
View the NYC Parks page for Central Park for operating hours, directions, a park map, and additional background information. 
 
 

Acknowledgments

Thanks to those who provided local birding expertise for this page: Mary Beth Kooper, Tod Winston (2020); Harrison D. Maas (2012).