York is a city teeming with birds, so it should be no surprise that thousands
make a hobby of seeking them out. Whether for the thrill of the chase
or as a way to reconnect with nature, thousands of New Yorkers make an
effort to grab their binoculars and field guides and head to the city's
"We're right here on the coast and on a major flight-line along the Atlantic," says Joseph DiCostanzo, an avid birdwatcher and an ornithologist with the American Museum of Natural History, one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Birds often find the lush green spaces of Central Park, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, Riverside Park and the marshes of Staten Island an oasis. Parks like these can provide an optimal location for New York wildlife aficionados to spot birds.
or birding, is one of the fastest growing hobbies in America, according
to Birding.com. Birding involves locating different species of birds.
Enthusiasts often keep careful track of which they have seen, and when
and where they found them.
Eventually she bought The Audubon Guide to North American Birds so she could identify other birds in the park area.
beginning birders, according to both Day and DiCostanzo, the tools of
the trade are simple: a pair of binoculars and a field guide. Peterson's
Beginner's Guide to Birdwatching is especially designed for the beginning
hobbyist. Prospective birders, over time, will develop a lifetime list,
carefully documenting each new species they encounter. DiCostanzo's list
tops 300 in New York City alone, with an additional 60 spotted in the
greater metro area.
many, this is a connection to the natural world out there that you often
forget about," said DiCostanzo. Sometimes, bird enthusiasts are drawn
to the hobby to learn more about the environment. But just as many enjoy
the thrill of tracking down new birds or even photographing brightly-colored
birds can also be a social activity. There are several organizations in
the New York area dedicated to birding (see sidebar), allowing enthusiasts
to share information and news, sometimes about the latest rare bird to
visit the city. The Audubon Society even runs a rare bird alert hotline
to announce which species have arrived at any given time and place. Also,
many birders can participate in birdwatching classes or tours.
Among their discoveries was PCB-related damage to some of the island's birds. This marked the first time that the potentially deadly pesticide had been found to cause environmental damage.
for those without a scientific bent, birdwatching can provide insight
into the lives of a diverse class of creatures. Since many birds in New
York are migratory, often traveling great distances, each season can bring
a new set of species to observe. Also, avid birdwatchers can sometimes
find the very same bird, often returning to the same location, year after
year, recognizing them by their coloration or personality traits. Others
just find the variety and the beauty of the birds fascinating.
birds of prey like hawks, falcons and osprey is almost a religious experience
for me, I am so moved by their beauty and size. There have been some waterfowl
that I've fed for years," said Day.
As with any
hobby, enthusiasts can get immersed in chasing birds. When a rare bird
is sighted in New York, many birders will rush to its nesting site. DiCostanzo
recalls one aficionado who jetted to New York just to see a bradbill sandpiper,
an Asian bird observed only five times in North America, when it was spotted
in Queens several years ago. The man took a taxi from the airport to the
bird's reported location and told the driver to wait. A few minutes later,
after finding the sandpiper, he had the cabbie drive him back to Kennedy
airport, and he flew home. For the vast majority, though, birding is a
thing is, just get out there and have fun," says DiCostanzo. "Some
never look beyond the birds in their backyard, and that's fine."
So, whether the birds come to you or you track them down, grab your binoculars
and field guide and experience New York's feathered visitors.
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