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Spring Birds Are Here: Migrating Woodcocks, Robins and Pine Warblers

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

American Woodcock (16 March 2017/Central Park) - Deborah Allen

13 March 2019

Bird Notes: Central Park Bird Walks in mid-March happen every Saturday and Sunday morning at 9:30am (only). Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. $10/person. Please consult the Schedule page of this web site for updates to the schedule and directions to the meeting location (the Boathouse). The first Friday walk will be on 29 March; the first Monday walk will be on 8 April. From there on we will add Thursdays (mid-April) and possibly Tue-Wed for the first two weeks of May only. Sandra Critelli will be leading an evening (6pm) walk or two each week in late April through mid-May.

Yes that's right: Thursday, 14 March (tomorrow) the high temperature is forecast to be 65f. Migrating birds will be traveling north on the southerly winds bringing warm air to our region. See you Saturday morning at 9:30am to find the first spring 2019 pioneers.

In our Historical Notes we send reports of (a) European songbirds released in Central Park: the Chaffinch and European Starling (1890); (b) the illegal trapping of native songbirds in upper Manhattan (1889), and the sale of "yellowbirds" (Yellow Warblers? Goldfinches?) in Brooklyn (1890); and (c/d) two American Woodcock tales: (c) on Fulton Street (Manhattan) after colliding with telegraph wires (April 1890); + (d) in a backyard on Willoughby Street (Brooklyn) on 1 June 1890. American Woodcocks, since people first started reporting birds in NYC, always found themselves on migration on city streets, yards and parks. Unfortunately they suffer high mortality colliding with everything from chain-link (Diamond) fences to telegraph wires to glass windows - as well as being hunted during the fall migration outside of NYC. Below is a photo of a Wilson's Snipe for comparison - note different pattern of stripes on the head.

Wilson's Snipe in Portland, Connecticut on 2 April 2012 by Deborah Allen


Good! Here are the bird walks for mid-March

All Bird Walks in Central Park

1. Saturday, 16 March at 9:30am - meet at the Boathouse Restaurant. $10

2. Sunday, 17 March at 9:30am - meet at the Boathouse Restaurant. $10

The Boathouse Restaurant is located at 74th street and the East Drive within the park.


Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here:

Any questions send them our way: or call: 718-828-8262 (home)

Pine Warbler at NYBG (Bronx) where they may still nest on 27 June 2008

The fine print: On Saturdays and Sundays, our walks meet 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 ( If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there 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 walks at the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). 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.

American Robins will soon be gracing lawns - this one by Doug Leffler in autumn 2018


Here is what we saw last weekend (brief highlights)

Sat-Sun 9-10 March (Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am) - Sandra Critelli covered the Saturday morning walk, while Deborah and Bob covered Sunday which proved to be a the summary applies to Sandra on Saturday. (And please be aware that this is still pre-migration.)...From Sandra in her words: "There were many Tufted Titmouse as there have been all winter; a couple White Breasted Nuthatches; a few 4-5 Black-capped Chickadees; many Grackles, 2 Fox Sparrows; 4 Red-Bellied Woodpeckers; one Yellow Belly Sapsucker; One Flicker (the one that has been around the feeders the last 2 weeks); 4-5 Downy Woodpeckers; and one Field Sparrow. At the Maintenance Field, Andrea Hessel spotted the Brown Thrasher, and also we saw an American Kestrel perching on top of a tree. The best was at Turtle Pond where we watched a juvenile Cooper Hawk standing on the edge of the water first, drinking then flying to the other side and dipping with his feet in the water. Mallards and 6 Shovelers were around and close to the Hawks. Nearby there was another Cooper Hawk adult on a tree and opposite side a Red Tailed Hawk. We also followed another Cooper Hawk moving around in the Ramble for a while. By the lake there were 3 Ruddy Ducks and 7 more Shovelers. After the walk Andrea and I feeding the Red Breasted Nuthatch at the Ramble Feeders. As usual people enjoyed feeding the birds. We got a Downy on somebody's hand too. I couldn't find a Woodcock. A lady said she spotted one briefly by the west side waterfall.

Northern Flicker (female) by Doug Leffler in autumn 2018



EUROPEAN BIRDS IN CENTRAL PARK [1890 April]. Mr. Eugene Schieifelin, of New York city, recently set at liberty in Central Park 80 European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and 70 chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs).


LIMING SONG BIRDS [1889 - Manhattan]. WITHIN the past few weeks great numbers of song birds have been destroyed or captured within the limits of this city. Men provided with bird lime and decoys have this spring visited the upper sections of New York Island, where there are still fields and woods, and during the migration have made away with thousands of the beautiful creatures which were making their journey from the south toward their summer homes. By Chapter 427 of the Laws of 1886 it is specifically provided that no person shall catch with bird lime or any similar substance any song bird or any wild bird other than a game bird. The penalty for a violation of this act is imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not less than five or more than thirty days, or a fine of not less than ten or more than fifty dollars, at the discretion of the court. However difficult it may be in the country districts to enforce this and similar laws, there should be no trouble about doing it in the city, where it falls within the province of the police to prevent infractions of the statutes. The police who, patrol the upper end of the island, or some of them, appear to be ignorant of their duty in this matter, and it will be well for the captains of the various precincts to bring this subject to the attention of their men. We are informed that one of the favorite places for this trapping of the birds is on the Ward property, which is situated at about 170th street, in Captain Cortright's precinct. We learn that complaint has more than once been made to the patrolmen whose beats cover this property, but they have declined to take even the mild action of warning away the offenders. The Ward property is we understand, leased as a shooting ground to the Washington Heights Gun Club, and complaints of these infractions of the law have been made to the president of this club, but it is stated that he paid no attention to the matter. It would seem that a sportsman would take sufficient interest in an affair of this kind to try and put a stop to it. The provisions of the law are clear, and it is the duty of the police to see that they are carried out. Inspectors and captains controlling the suburban portions of the city have the power to put an end to this destruction, and now that the subject has been brought to their attention they probably will do so.


Some weeks ago we called the attention of the New York police authorities to reported infractions of the law protecting song birds, which were going on in the upper part of the city. Since then the officials in control of the districts referred to have taken all possible steps to have the law enforced, and especially to watch the particular piece of property mentioned as the scene of the trapping. While danger to the song birds from this is practically over for this season, the police will no doubt keep a sharp lookout for the trappers hereafter, and will do all in their power to put an end to this nefarious business.


SONG BIRD DECISION [1890]. A DECISION of great interest to small bird protectors was recently made by Chief Justice Barnard, of the Supreme Court of New York. Some time ago a suit was brought by the Long Island Game Protector against a Mrs. Fishbough, of Brooklyn, who exposed for sale in her store seventeen living yellowbirds [either Yellow Warblers as they were called in the late 19th c., or possibly, American Goldfinches]. Before a Police Justice, the Long Island Game Protector charged Mrs. Fishbough with violating Chapter 427 of the laws of 1886, but in that court she was acquitted on the ground that the birds were living, the Justice holding that the prohibition against exposing song birds for sale applied only to those that have been killed. However, the case was carried up, and Judge Barnard decided that Mrs. Fishbough had violated the law; that it is an offense to keep for sale live song birds, and that such action renders the offender liable to fine or imprisonment, or both. It is to be hoped that this decision may put an end to an abuse which has flourished greatly in and near this city of late years. This is the trapping during the season of migration of numbers of native song birds. These little captives after being taken are either sold for a trifle to the keepers of bird stores, or more frequently are at once destroyed and their skins sold to the dealers in feather millinery.


WOODCOCK IN FULTON STREET. New York City, April 10 [1890]. Editor: This morning, at the corner of Fulton and Gold streets [Manhattan], I found a woodcock lying on the sidewalk. I only had a chance to hastily examine the bird, as quite a number of men were quickly interested in handling it, but to all appearances it had broken its neck against the telegraph wires that stretched net-like overhead. It was still warm and was in fair condition. F'LIN.


Woodcock in Town. Brooklyn, Aug. 2 [1890]. Editor: In November of 1889 you published over my signature an account of a woodcock killed with a tennis racket on the grounds of the Brooklyn Athletic Association in this city. On the morning of June 1 one was found in the yard of Mr. F. I. Munson, 180 Willoughby street, corner Fleet street, Brooklyn. It was alive when found but died in a few hours. It was a male bird and in poor condition. As it is not the season for the flight of these birds, it seems somewhat strange for a bird of such retiring habits to be found in such a crowded part of the city. The bird was seen alive by Mr. Zack Green and Mr. N. G. Scollay, and a short time after died was given to me. HY. J. GROWTAGE

One last American Woodcock by Doug Leffler - autumn 2018


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD Follow us on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Turkey Vulture 12 March 2016 nesting along the Palisades, NJ

Central Park (Bow Bridge hidden on left) in mid-April 2015 with an ornamental cherry tree in flower above and Manhattan Schist (now the Hartland Formation) below


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