• Robert DeCandido PhD

One by Day Two by Night = Bird Migration NYC in September is Grrreat

Updated: Mar 1



12 September 2018

Bird Notes: Migration will continue strong through mid-October with warblers, vireos and other neotropical migrants being the dominant species in September.

Our bird photos come from Doug Leffler and rdc...they are scattered through this Newsletter. Deborah Allen continues to look after her Mom in Washington state - she will be back in NYC soon, and her photos will again grace these pages. Meanwhile if you want to see her images, check her web site: https://tinyurl.com/ydflkdp4

With all the publicity for the fine efforts to monitor and protect birds on nocturnal migration at the Tribute in Light in lower Manhattan - the former site of the World Trade Center - this Newsletter is devoted to similar studies of the night migration of birds in the NYC area, primarily at the Empire State Building (ESB). In 2004-2005, I was fortunate enough to be given a free pass that allowed myself and five others to go to the Observation Deck (86th floor 1080 feet elevation) each evening in spring (2004) and autumn (2004-2005). In all, I along with my team of 30 or so volunteers spent 200+ nights studying how birds responded to the ESB lights; how birds responded to weather conditions such as fog or strong winds - and more. We wanted to determine if the Empire State Building was a significant hazard to night migrating birds, and if so, how could we come up with a conservation plan to minimize bird deaths at the ESB. It was (and remains) the only visual season-long study of night migrating birds done in NYC and the region - it may be the only such study done at night, anywhere. We were watching an area of the sky (800-1500 feet elevation approx.) that radar has trouble "seeing" because the buildings obstruct radar pulses - and it is a critical part of the sky because this is where birds encounter buildings.

Our results were spectacular - no one knew the following, and/or we put detailed data that others had made in passing: we discovered that Peregrine Falcons regularly hunt night migrating birds in autumn, but not spring; that Ospreys migrate at night; that Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets migrate at night; that small birds will circle the ESB and the lights from its tower when winds were less than approx. 15mph, but NOT when winds were greater than approx. 15-20 mph...We published these results in scientific journals and issued several popular reports - check the publications page of this web site and look in the Empire State Building folder for detailed info.


from left to right with binoculars: Carl Howard, Mark Kolakowski and rdc counting night migrating birds at the Empire State Building in September 2005 - from the NY Times article by James Barron about our research published on 7 October 2004 (photo by Fred Conrad - "86 Floors Up, No Elevator Required")


We were fortunate enough to give talks about our research for many different organizations: we were the keynote speakers at a National Audubon event in Connecticut; at the Natural History Museum in Philadelphia - and many other venues throughout North America. On the other hand, we seemed to have run afoul of the local bird groups and clubs. For example, in autumn 2004, the Executive Director of NYC Audubon called the Empire State Building management to have me removed from the Observation Deck, or at least have my pass revoked. He was likely instructed to do this by the NYC Audubon Board of Directors. When I invited NYC Audubon Board Members to visit to see what I was seeing, or when I wrote articles about our observations for the NYC Audubon newsletter - not one of them had the time to visit, with one person writing back to me that she was going to watch a baseball game instead (M. Fowle). My articles about what was being seen were rejected by the NYC Audubon folks. Oh well...and of course, we were never asked to give slide talks to either NYC Audubon or the Linnaean Society of New York - I guess what we learned/discovered at night at the ESB had no relevance to the members of these organizations. [Here is a recommendation: no matter how much you may disagree with the message, or personally dislike the messenger (rdc), there might be information that is relevant and important to your mission and members.]

So as I read 2011-2018 comments by scientists studying night migrating birds at the Tribute in Light, that very few birds have been killed there through the years, or that when birds have been killed it was by colliding with glass at nearby buildings, I am heartened! That was exactly the observations/conclusions reached by my team in 2004-2005 from our observations at the ESB. But back then we were roundly criticized for having "sold-out" or bribed by ESB management - and combined with Bob's night blindness and stupidity - well the observations my team of Citizen Scientists made were lacking, to put it politely. Is it any wonder that when I see folks from NYC Audubob or the NYC Linnean Society, I smile with a frown or outright disgust?



Tennessee Warbler by Doug Leffler - autumn 2017


In this week's historical notes we focus on nocturnal bird migration at the Empire State Building primarily (but not exclusively) from 2004 to the present. There is much info, so we completely understand if it is too much to read. We present (a) a 1955 article from Time Magazine on a late October bird and bat kill at the ESB; (b) an 11 September 2004 Email to New York State Bird List detailing the first report of birds circling in and out of the Tribute in Lights in lower Manhattan - as an aside, no birds were found dead in the area the next morning even though birds circled for several hours; (c) a 10 October 2005 account of Peregrine Falcons chasing/catching night migrating birds at the ESB - and migrating birds moving past the ESB that night in strong winds and not circling the illuminated towers; (d) a 12 October 2005 account of a major movement of birds on a foggy night as seen from the Observation Deck of the ESB by rdc - with follow-up notes a day or two later by graduate students at Cornell University on a similar migration event in Ithaca NY - thousands of birds "confused" by lights and circling (and landing! in upstate NY) - with only two birds found dead; (e) three emails from the JFK international airport (Oct/Nov 2005-06) on birds colliding with south (not north!) facing windows - suggesting that at least for night migrating birds in the NYC area, glass at or near ground level is a much more significant mortality factor than light at night - and why is it that so many autumn (southbound) birds collide on the south side of buildings when lights are on at night? (f) a possible explanation for why fewer birds are killed recently at tall, illuminated structures from a 2002 scientific article: from 1970-1999 dead birds were picked up at the base of three illuminated Communication Towers during fall migration in upstate New York and Ohio. From 1970-1989 (20 fall seasons) more than 100 dead birds were picked up at these towers in 19 of those 20 years; from 1990-1999, in only 3 of 10 years were more than 100 birds found dead below those same towers - perhaps there may be many fewer birds migrating at night (overall population declines)? [Other explanations are also possible such as there are many more towers now and the "nocturnal bird kill" is spread out to more towers.]

Looking north from the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building: September 2004


Good! Here are the bird walks for mid-September - each $10***

1. Friday, 14 September - 9:00am (ONLY!) - Meet Conservatory Garden at 105th st./5th Ave. 2. Saturday, 15 September - 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. 3. Sunday, 16 September - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. 4. Monday, 17 Sept. - 8:00/9:00am - Strawberry Fields (Imagine Mosaic) at 72 st/CPW.


Any questions/concerns send them our way: rdcny@earthlink.net or call us at home: 718-828-8262 ***NOTE: on MORNINGS when two walks are scheduled (e.g., 7:30/9:30am), you can do both walks for $10/person...you get two for the price of one. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ya65n5a8


The fine print: On Saturdays and Sundays, our walks meet at 7:30am and again at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time!. Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (= rdcny@earthlink.net). On Mondays we meet at 8am and again at 9am at Strawberry Fields (the benches near the "Imagine" Mosaic. Enter the park at 72nd street and Central Park West and walk about 1 minute due east on the main, paved path and find the Mosaic - we are sitting nearby. On Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden located at 105th street and 5th Avenue. Enter through the main gates and walk down the steps - head straight ahead along the long, grassy area - we meet by the giant water spout between the men's room and the women's room. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not, check the web site the morning of the walk: info will be posted on the main landing page as well as the "Schedule" page by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk! We end all our weekend and Monday Central Park walks at the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). For our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue. Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we are a helpful group.



Blackburnian Warbler on fall migration by Doug Leffler


Here is what we saw last week (selected highlights).

Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best: Friday, 7 September (Conservatory Garden at 105th St. and 5th Avenue at 9am) - though overnite winds were northerly, they came from the northeast; so yes migrants arrived but compared to last year at this time (16 warbler species found on 6 September 2017), today we only found nine including: Magnolia, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow (5 at least); Northern Parula...and a Wilson's Warbler male before the walk. We also found five Red-breasted Nuthatches and a very cooperative Red-tailed Hawk (hatch-year) that landed a few feet from us. Add to this one Baltimore Oriole, many Red-eyed Vireos - it was enough to make a good, but not great, bird walk.

Today's list of birds for Friday, 7 September: Deborah Allen is still away with her mom in Washington State - she will be back next week to do our daily bird list.

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Saturday, 8 September (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - Overcast with overnite winds from the NE to ENE - we want winds from the northwest. Today was much better than Friday - many more birds and many more species (kinds) of birds. With the great help of Jeff Ward this morning we found these highlights: Tennessee Warbler; Prairie Warbler - 13 warbler species in all; Baltimore Oriole (8 in one tree coming in to my recorded calls); Great Crested Flycatchers...and one Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Of course we had Red-breasted Nuthatches in several locations.

Deborah Allen's list of birds for Saturday, 8 September: Deborah Allen is still away with her mom in Washington State - she will be back next week to do our daily bird list.

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Sunday, 9 September (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - it was not supposed to rain today but it did...starting lightly and then becoming moderate (10am) to steady and miserable (11:15am). On the first walk we found a few notable birds including a Tennessee Warbler at the Upper Lobe; on the second walk we found two Tennessee Warblers, a male Prairie Warbler and at least 10 Yellow Warblers (and more than 25 American Redstarts) - all in all we had 10 warbler species today. The consolation birds were the two Belted Kingfishers seen from the Dock on Turtle Pond and the ubiquitous Red-breasted Nuthatches.

Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 9 September: Deborah Allen is still away with her mom in Washington State - she will be back next week to do our daily bird list.

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Monday, 10 September (Strawberry Fields at 8:00am and again at 9:00am) - RAIN! RAIN! RAIN! No bird walks today - always check the web site if you are wondering if a bird walk is cancelled - we will only post when a bird walk is cancelled...no note from us on the main page of the web site - then the walk takes place as scheduled.

Deborah Allen's list of birds for Monday, 10 September: RAIN! No bird walk.


Veery by Doug Leffler in September 2016


HISTORICAL NOTES

From the Magazine - Science Birds in Trouble Posted Monday, Oct. 31, 1955 Flying conditions over New York City one morning last week were good until about 8 a.m. Then the ceiling came down almost to the level of the Empire State Building's Observation Terrace on the 86th floor, 1,020 ft. above the street. On the floor of the terrace rained a shower of dead and dying songbirds. More than 300 (one-third of them Myrtle Warblers) died within half an hour after slamming against the big building. Frank Powell, who was in charge of the Observation Terrace, sent word to his friend John K. Terres of the National Audubon Society. They picked up dead birds of 18 species, including ruby-crowned kinglets, palm warblers and Empidonax flycatchers. The victims still alive were cared for tenderly. To Naturalist Terres it was an old story. The 1,472-ft. Empire State Building, which is on the migratory flyway that leads down the U.S. East Coast, is a major obstruction to bird navigation. Migrating birds lack the dependable blind-flying instruments that enable an airplane pilot to fly with equanimity through dense clouds. Preferring to fly under a low ceiling, they often crash by hundreds against the Empire State. For some unexplained reason, they do not seem to hit mountains, and Manhattan skyscrapers almost as high as the Empire State seldom kill many birds. Bat Mystery. On the night before the bird-crash on the Observation Terrace, two dead bats were picked up. How bats navigate over long distances is not known, but their sonar apparatus (high-frequency sound-wave ranging) generally keeps them clear of even small obstacles like twigs or wires. There are few records of bat-crashes in instrument-flying weather, but two years ago bats began to pile into the Empire State. Terres thinks that the cluster of television antennae on the building may have something to do with it. The power of the antennae has increased recently and broadcasting has continued late into the night. This may be the time when the bats fly past, and in some way the surge of electric energy flooding out of the antennae may confuse their sensitive high-frequency sound equipment. Deadly Ceilometers. The Empire State is not the only man-made menace to migrating birds. Far worse are the ceilometer beams that measure the height of clouds above many airports. They are powerful searchlights that cast a spot of light on the base of the overcast so that an automatic instrument can calculate its height by triangulation. On migrating birds they have a terrible effect. Thousands of the birds, apparently confused by the glaring light, lose their bearings and fly into the ground or against low buildings. Last year 50,000 birds were killed in two nights at two Southern airports. Terres estimates that at least 200,000 were killed that year by airport ceilometers. Following a suggestion from Terres, the U.S. Weather Bureau has put blue filters on ceilometer projectors at the Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn. airports. Most night migrating birds see blue light poorly. By the end of the present migration season, Terres hopes to report that his filters helped birds to reach their Southern objectives without unscheduled and fatal stops in Tennessee.



Date: 11 September 2004 Email to New York State Bird List Sitting at an outdoor cafe at around 10 pm, I happened to glance up at the beams and noticed thousands of tiny specks circling in the columns of light. Later armed with binoculars I could confirm that these specks are indeed thousands of birds. Others had noticed the birds and on seeing me using binoculars asked for confirmation. The numbers are very difficult to estimate but I would say in excess of 5000 individuals and comprising a variety of different sizes. The strong glare prevented further identification. The birds are circling around and within the beams, occasionally crossing from one column of light to the next. The densest concentrations seem to be in the lower section (first 500 to 1000 ft?), with fewer visible in the higher sections. Numbers were undiminished at ~1 am. Angus Wilson New York City



Date: 10 October 2005

From: rdc at the ESB Despite the blustery northwest wind conditions, there were some exciting moments for the remainder of the night on Sunday night. The skies became mostly clear after 9pm, and this facilitated picking up the migrants against a black background. Similarly, people on the deck watched as a Peregrine, soaring about 75 feet above, made repeated stoops at the migrants from about 9:15pm onwards. About 40 people from several countries (and Adam from Rochester who photographed the soaring Peregrine with his Canon Digital camera) watched the Peregrine make 29 dives and catch 7 birds in the span of about 25 minutes. The falcon would catch a bird, drop it off, zoom out from the building and then "wait on," hanging in mid-air above the Observation Deck for the next group of migrants (or an individual) to appear. There were many misses too, but it seemed like the falcon was sometimes not fully engaged in those attacks. After 10:30pm, two falcons were flying about the Tower, mostly out of my sight on the south side of the building. I had to leave at 10:55pm. There were about 415 migrants between 10-11pm, and approx. 700 for the night (7-11pm). No birds collided with the building, and the flight pattern of the migrants was similar to past nights when winds were strong (> 15mph): birds primarily came around the west side of the building, facing into the wind (so they looked sideways when they were above us) and flapping madly. I believe they do this so that they have more control in the way they pass a structure that they perceive could be a hazard if not negotiated properly. By facing into the wind, the migrants can exercise finer maneuvers than if they just let the wind carry them (ie., a tail wind). Once they make the right turn and are mid-way past the building (and were then above us), they then turn south and let the wind carry them at more or less full speed, and we watched them zoom away. Some birds are never affected by building lights at night in NYC: this list includes Peregrine Falcons as well as migrating shorebirds, ducks, geese and some others. They fly past with no problems that I have ever seen. And of the birds that are killed, not all members of that species are attracted to lights...What I am saying here is that response to night light varies from bird to bird. Some birds will be killed on every night in NYC: some will be attracted to lights; some will hit buildings; some will hit plate glass; some will end up starving because they landed in poor quality (stopover) habitat the next day; others will be blown out over sea and perish (unless they land on a ship). So birds are going to die for many reasons. Habitat loss, and degradation of existing NYC habitats is a critical one. Again, we have no idea of how birds fare once they land in and begin feeding in NYC parks. Even on foggy nights birds know where the Empire State Building is. I have seen how they fly round and round and then move off...That birds collide on such nights is well known and documented, and I can email anyone interested a list of articles and newspaper accounts of such nights. So on nights when many birds are killed, something qualitatively different is happening after midnight than during the hours when I can watch them (8-11:45pm). Whether turning off the lights of New York City's tall buildings (or leaving them on) is better or worse for birds, is unknown. That needs to be studied. I can make a case for both sides of the issue, but until someone actually sees and studies what happens when birds collide here in NYC, everyone is speculating...The policy of lights out or on may vary from building to building depending on whether the building is mostly glass (Trump Tower/United Nations) or mostly solid (like the ESB). Overall, plate glass and migrating birds is an issue that needs to be examined in greater detail. Tonight (Monday) will be good again to see migrants, and it sounds like Friday night after the next cold front passes will be good again. To watch the birds migrating is a wonderful experience, and one that everyone seems to enjoy. To hear them calling at night, is great too. It can be downright noisy at times. Put a Peregrine up there, and it adds to the experience. The night migration of birds could be such a spectacular experience for many people and birders here in NYC. Most people know conceptually that most birds migrate at night. To see and experience the migration with one's own eyes, surrounded by the spectacular view of NYC at night, is to make that knowledge real. That is the real challenge then, how to make this a fun experience for as many people as possible so that they come away wanting to know more about birds, and wanting to become stewards of the environment.



Looking north from the Empire State Building on 12 October 2005


Date: 12 October 2005 - see photo above

From: rdc at the ESB Hello All, Quite a change in the weather recently...since the long stretch of clear, mild weather, we have had nothing but heavy clouds with bouts of rain (from the northeast) since Friday, October 7th. Oddly, this is good for bird watching since the birds tend to stay lower in the canopy, and responding to pishing well (come in close for good looks). This stormy weather is expected to continue until October 14th...Meanwhile, migration continues in between the rain. At 6:58pm on the night of 10 October (Monday), while doing my night survey at the Empire State Building, a female Belted Kingfisher appeared out of the mist, and flew past me heading south, no more than 10 feet beyond the railing of the northwest corner of the Observation Deck. Winds were from the northeast at the time. And for those interested in what happens to night migrating birds when they encounter heavy fog/mist and the different types of lights of the Empire State Building (ESB), the following might be of interest: On Sunday and Monday nights (Oct. 9-10), just such conditions prevailed at the Observation Deck of the ESB. We had as many as 200 birds circling the ESB tower (Monday night after 11pm), and one bird attempted to fly through an open door to get into the Gift Shop. However, no dead birds have been found at the ESB these last few days, and I have not observed any collisions with the building. This is not to say that there were no casualties whatsoever, but it is good to know that there have not been any major bird kills in these weather conditions. In the past (11 September 1948) on a foggy night, approximately 800 birds were killed at the ESB, mostly after midnight. Those migrants either collided with the building, its lights, or fell from the sky (exhausted? confused?) to the street. Why the difference between then and now in terms of bird mortality at the ESB during inclement weather? And what factor(s) make circling birds begin to collide with the ESB in foggy conditions? I wish I knew...I was fully prepared to witness collisions this week. Instead I saw birds (mostly Thrushes it seemed to me) circling in and out of the fog, at eye level, and even above the tower. Most (> 90%) flew in a counter-clockwise direction. Other birds (such as the Belted Kingfisher, as well as a Nighthawk and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak), we saw only once - indicating to me that some birds traveled past the ESB in migration without pausing to circle the tower/lights. Stay tuned for more info on this... --- Subject: Nocturnal migrant fallout - Cornell campus From: "Michael G Harvey" Date: Wed, October 12, 2005 2:46 am To: "Upstate NY Birding" ..... one of the most spectacular avian spectacles I have witnessed occurred tonight on campus. After a late night at the lab, Tim was dropping me off at my house when we noticed incredible numbers of nocturnal flight calls overhead. In fact, in ten seconds Tim counted 26 flight calls (extrapolated, that equals over 150 calls per minute). We noticed the lights were on in the football stadium on campus, and thought that perhaps the combination of this bright light source and the low clouds were drawing in large numbers of birds. As we approached the stadium, it was obvious something big was going on. Phone calls were made and in the end Mike Anderson, Tim Lenz, Glenn Seeholzer, Lena Samsonenko, Colin Thoreen, Ellie Wallace, Ryan Douglas, Dan Lebbin, Jesse Ellis, Jake Barnett, Brian Sullivan, Curtis Marantz, Scott Haber, and myself assembled at the stadium. Within and in the trees surrounding the stadium were literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of migrants! Savannah Sparrows blanketed the astro-turf, Common Yellowthroats flit among the bleachers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers sallied low overhead. Most of the birds appeared to be feeding, largely on moths, and all were quite approachable and easy to see in the brilliant stadium lights! We canvassed the area between roughly 9:30 PM and almost 2 AM, when the lights were shut off. Jesse left early so this report includes the totals for the entire night, including after he left. We split up several times to better cover the area, so I may have missed something, but here are approximate numbers: Great Blue Heron (8+) heron sp. (1, possibly a bittern, seen from my house by Tim and myself) Green Heron (10+) Red-tailed Hawk (1) Killdeer (1+) Semipalmated Plover (1+) Greater Yellowlegs (1) possible Solitary Sandpiper (1) Pectoral Sandpiper (1) possible Wilson's Snipe (1) Mourning Dove (2+) cuckoo sp. (1) Belted Kingfisher (1!) Eastern Phoebe (1+) Wood Thrush (2 on ground, many overhead) Swainson's Thrush (many overhead) Gray-cheeked Thrush (many overhead) Hermit Thrush (1 on ground, quite a few overhead) Gray Catbird (4+ on the ground, 1 heard calling apparently overhead from my house - possibly unprecedented?) American Pipit (2+) Northern Parula (4+) Tennessee Warbler (1) Nashville Warbler (1) Chestnut-sided Warbler (1, Glenn only) Magnolia Warbler (4+) Black-throated Blue Warbler (15+) Blackburnian Warbler (1) Yellow-rumped Warbler (400++) Black-throated Green Warbler (8+) Palm Warbler (20+) Bay-breasted Warbler (2) Blackpoll Warbler (1) Black-and-white Warbler (1) American Redstart (2) Ovenbird (1, specimen later obtained) Common Yellowthroat (45++) Hooded Warbler (1, Tim only) Scarlet Tanager (1) Rose-breasted Grosbeak (2+) apparent BLUE GROSBEAK (2-3!, I heard these birds and I agree that they are consistent with recordings and what I remember of Blue Grosbeak calls, but I will leave it to those who identified these birds to provide additional details) Indigo Bunting (2+) DICKCISSEL (4+, calling overhead, often low) Chipping Sparrow (few heard overhead, none on ground) Savannah Sparrow (200+ on astro-turf at one time, many dozens more in trees, parking lots, and overhead. probably over 1000 on the night!) White-crowned Sparrow (4: 1 ad, 3 juv) White-throated Sparrow (3+) Swamp Sparrow (2) I apologize if I missed anything. Perhaps almost as interesting as what we saw were the species NOT represented on the ground in this flight. Thrushes were very scarce relative to the numbers we were hearing, and vireos and kinglets were completely absent! I think I speak for all of us when I say tonight will not be soon forgotten! 17 warbler species...on October 12...at night...in a football stadium! Hopefully a few pictures from the fallout will be posted in the near future. Regards, Mike Harvey Ithaca, NY --- Subject: More on the NIGHT MIGRANT SPECTACLE From: Dan Lebbin Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2005 I just wanted to add a bit to Mike Harvey's post regarding tonights night migrant spectacle caused by the combination of fog, low cloud cover and stadium lights that provided sufficient illumination for us to watch the birds and for the warblers to actively forage - many sallying after small nocturnal moths. The foraging continued and perhaps even escalated when the rain picked up. Although few thrushes were seen on the ground, we did hear a Wood Thrush low (from a tree) late in the evening and I saw a Gray-cheeked Thrush in a tree by the stadium early in the evening. I have photographs of varying quality from this evening of people, the scene and male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, female Indigo Bunting, Savannah Sparrow (on the turf and a table), Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Common Yellowthroat (perched and rescued from Bartel's Hall), female American Redstart, a probable 1st-year Bay-breasted Warbler (low quality-about all you get is a wing bar), Palm Warbler, and various combinations of these and unidentified birds perched up in trees. I am happy to send some of these to someone who can post them (Tim, Kevin?). Email me off list if you were there and would like a copy of the people shots I have. Thanks to Mike & Jesse for posting already, and to Mike for calling me. When I arrived I expected to finding many dead birds from collisions but was relieved and amazed that most of the birds seemed to be doing just fine and many were taking advantage of the light to forage. That said, we did rescue several Yellowthroats from open lit doorways when the lights turned off outside and at least one dead ovenbird and one female Black-throated Blue Warbler were picked up. Dan Lebbin



American Redstart (adult male) by Doug Leffler in autumn 2017



From: Employee at JFK International Airport

Sent: Oct 19, 2005

To: Robert DeCandido PhD <rdcny@earthlink.net>

Subject: Night Migrants

Robert, Interesting information on the migration. We have had a couple of incidents of warblers flying into windows at one of the terminals at JFK. Over 100 warblers were collected in 2002 (Sep. 12th) and this year [2005] 38 warblers were collected on Sep. 3rd. In the latter case, the birds were reported to us (PA Operations) around 4:00 a.m. In both cases, the terminal's tenants had no information other than the birds were found dead by the cleaners. The odd part is that the birds were found on the side of the building facing towards the south, not the north as you would expect. As you guessed, the building is only about 3 floors tall so they must have flown in fairly low to the ground. There were 11 different species collected this time, technically not all warblers - there was a northern waterthrush, Baltimore oriole, and an Empidonax spp. flycatcher too. Also, we have had a large migration of tree swallows pass through. They came through a few years ago and they generally stay for about a week and then move on. Apparently, this year there were thousands of tree swallows. In fact, there were so many that our staff thought that they were starlings from a distance until the birds were close enough to see well. The swallows seem to pass through in October, which is also when I get reports of woodcocks flying into office windows at the airport (none so far this year). Just got an update that the tree swallows are still here, but only in flocks of 30-40 now.

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From: Employee at JFK International Airport

To: Robert DeCandido <rdcny@earthlink.net>

Subject: migrating birds hitting buildings

Date: Nov 8, 2006

Robert, We had a large group of birds fly into one of the buildings at the airport last Friday and then more residual hits on Saturday and Tuesday. Have you noticed the same thing at the Empire State Building (or other NYC sites)? The birds we found this time weren't the usual small passerines, but mainly juncos, sparrows, and woodcocks. It really took us by surprise since the previous occasions of building strikes was much earlier in the season (September), happened at night or before dawn, and was with smaller birds. On this occasion, the birds hit the building after sunrise and continued to fly into the building until about 10 - 11 am. I'd love to talk to you about this and compare notes. Please give me a call at your convenience although I will be out of the office on Friday (Veteran's Day).

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From: Employee at JFK International Airport

To: "Robert DeCandido, PhD" <rdcny@earthlink.net>

Subject: RE: Bird Info from last Friday

Date: Nov 8, 2006

Thanks a lot Robert. I spoke to one of my colleagues with USDA-WS Natl. Wildlife Research Ctr. who suggested that we experienced an occurrence of "dawn reorientation". Makes a lot of sense since the wind was out of the northwest all morning and most of the night and probably blew the birds off course. When they came ashore to reorient themselves, they flew into the windows either seeing the sun reflected on the SE-facing building or saw sky in general in the windows. It was interesting to hear what others saw last week as it pretty much mirrors what we found. The species we found (in descending order) were juncos, Swainson's thrushes, woodcocks, chipping sparrows, white-throated sparrows, robins, song sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers, northern flickers, golden-crowned kinglets, ruby crowned kinglets, swamp sparrows, fox sparrow (1), Savannah sparrow (1), and field sparrow (1). Over the past couple of days, we've picked up about 20 woodcocks, which is much higher than usual. =================================

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow us on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC


Sunset at the Empire State Building - May 2004


#EmpireStateBuilding #NightMigration #Warblers

@2020 ROBERT DECANDIDO, PhD