GEESE! Grand Birds of NYC in Winter

Updated: Feb 26, 2020


Cooper's Hawk (Immature Male) by Deborah Allen; photographed in the Ramble of Central Park on Sunday, 19 January 2020

Bird Notes: We might take a week off from the Newsletter, so the next one you will receive could be two weeks from now, on or about Wednesday, 12 February. Meanwhile, Sunday morning bird walks continue as always at 9:30am meeting at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe - through February. Even though we are headed to South Dakota on 4 February for a week to photograph Golden Eagles, Ferruginous Hawks, and Gyrfalcons - the bird walks go on!



This Newsletter brings good news about birds in NYC and the region: the seven or so species of geese that have been observed here are now more common and more easily seen than ever. This is not just the ubiquitous Canada Goose...there are rare ones such as Barnacle Goose, Pink-footed Goose and White-fronted Goose - all stragglers from Greenland and Europe. Each of these has been seen in NYC in the last several years including a White-fronted Goose in the Bronx just this week. In this Newsletter, we feature Deborah Allen's photos of almost all the goose species ever seen in NYC.

To get a sense of how rare even the Canada Goose was in NYC until recently consider these excerpts from articles written in 1923 and 1958-1968:

1923. Canada Goose. Central Park. Now very rarely seen flying over [by 1923]. 2 May 1899 (Chubb); 18 May 1900 (Chubb); 11 October 1904 (Hix); 21 November 1918 (Chubb). BRONX REGION. Rare transient, seldom alighting. 9 October 1915 (Hix and L. N. Nichols) to 22 December 1909 (Griscom and LaDow); 13 March 1915 and 15 March 1920 (E. G. and L. N. Nichols). 1958. Canada Goose. Central Park. Rare transient, flying over. 28 March 1945 (Robert Cushman Murphy) to 18 May 1900 (Chubb); 7 October 1953 (Irv Cantor, Messing) to 21 November 1918 (Chubb). 275 on 18 October 1952 (Messing, Post); 200 on 25 April 1953 (Skelton). From 1959 to 1967 in Central Park: one on the Reservoir, 8 December 1964 (Carleton). 1958. Canada Goose. Prospect Park. Rare to uncommon transient. 27 March 1949 (Kreissman) to 6 May 1939 (Nathan, Tengwall) and 19 May 1944 (Soll); 7October 1950 (Whelen) to 24 November 1938 (125 birds - Manny Levine, Tengwall). Maximum 181 on 14 April 1944 (several flocks - Nathan, Soll). From 1959 to 1967: no change in status noted in Prospect Park.


Historical Notes


In this week's Historical Notes we present information about geese in NYC and the area from circa 1870 to the present:

  1. Describes the 1876 occurrence of a Barnacle Goose on Long Island, and its appearance in a taxidermist's shop on Carmine street in lower Manhattan; further on we present a 2010 discovery of a banded Barnacle Goose in the Bronx.

  2. A 1946 summary article of the status of the rare White-fronted Goose on the coasts of Long Island and New Jersey; (c) the first nesting of the Canada Goose in 1928 at the New York Botanical Garden (the Bronx).

  3. The rare Snow Goose and Blue Goose (1929-1934) on Long Island and New Jersey (two were just seen in Central Park last week); and finally

  4. A 2009 article from the Daily News about a proposal to cull (kill) excess Canada Geese in NYC and feed them to "needy" people.


Greater White-fronted Goose by Deborah Allen, Parade Grounds of Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx), 26 January 2020




Greater White-fronted Goose by Deborah Allen, Parade Grounds of Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx), 26 January 2020





adult Brant by Deborah Allen, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (Queens), mid-April 2012



Adult Brant by Deborah Allen, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (Queens), mid-April 2012





Good! The Bird Walks for Late Jan. through Early Feb.

All Walks @ $10/person - All walks in Central Park

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here


  1. Sunday, 2 February 2020 at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/ East Drive

  2. Sunday, 9 February 2020 at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/ East Drive

Immature Snow Geese, Reservoir of Central Park by Deborah Allen on Sunday, 19 January 2020

Immature Snow Geese, Reservoir of Central Park by Deborah Allen on Sunday, 19 January 2020


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) through early January 2020. Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time!

Please note that on SATURDAYS we may meet at other locations than Central Park. For example, on 21 December (Saturday) we will be at NYBG in the Bronx...so keep an eye on the Saturday schedule: we might also have no Saturday walks on some weekends in December-January.

Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is (rdcny@earthlink.net). If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient. 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 Central Park walks (except Fridays) 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.


Immature male Cooper's Hawk in the Ramble of Central Park on Sunday, 26 January 2020 by Deborah Allen





Immature male Cooper's Hawk in the Ramble of Central Park on Sunday, 26 January 2020 by Deborah Allen






Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Sunday, 26 January 2020 (Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am)


You could simply read last week's summary for today, and just add: "there were fewer birds." We found one young male Cooper's Hawk in the Ramble (thank you Sandra), but unlike last week, it was totally uninterested in the calls from my tape. We found an adult female Cooper's on the island in Turtle Pond - taking a bath...so these Accipiters seem comfortable in the park and could nest here. The only other birds of note were the waterfowl at the Reservoir - lovely Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Northern Shovellers..and for a few, a brief glimpse of an Iceland Gull (first-year) in flight.

Deborah's list of birds from Sunday, 26 January 2020


Domestic Goose by Deborah Allen, Central Park (Manhattan), 24 January 2020

Domestic Goose by Deborah Allen, Central Park (Manhattan), 24 January 2020


HISTORICAL NOTEs

Occurrence of the Barnacle Goose (Bernicula leucopsis) on Long Island, N.Y. [1876]

By Geo. K. Lawrence

I was recently informed, by Mr. Harold Herrick, that a specimen of this species could be seen at the store of Mr. Conway, taxidermist, in Carmine Street [lower Manhattan], said to have been killed on Long Island. I called there and was shown a nicely mounted example of this Goose in perfect plumage. Mr. Conway said that it was brought to him in the flesh, in good condition, and was eaten by his family; he spoke very favorably of its edible qualities. I learned from him that its possessor was Mr. J. K. Kendall of this city. I had an interview with this gentleman, and requested that he would ascertain all the facts possible as to its capture, and send me the information, I received from him the following letter giving the result of his inquiries:

New York, November 29, 1876.


Dear Sir,

About October 20 I saw a specimen of the Barnacle Goose hanging in a restaurant in this city, — bought it and had it stuffed. I questioned the proprietor, and learned from him the place where he bought it, — from a produce-dealer near Washington Market. Afterwards I interviewed the marketman, and he recollected the bird well, although he had no idea what it was. He told me he bought it from a Long Island farmer, who brought it to the city in his wagon, and who said that it was killed by a boy in Jamaica Bay. Unfortunately he did not know the farmer, — never saw him before nor since, so I was unable to trace the bird any farther, but I am fully satisfied the story was true.


Yours truly,

J. K. Kendall.


WILD GEESE. Brooklyn, 27 November [1887].


The largest flock of wild geese that ever came under my observation crossed my house on Sunday a few minutes to 12. I keep a flock of homing pigeons on my roof, and while watching them I saw the geese cross. I went down for my field-glass and counted 103, nine of them in a triangle in front, the rest in single file. Three of my friends made the same count, so it must be correct. The flock was nearly three blocks in length. F. A. S.



Partial Albinism in Canada Geese. — New York.


On the 25th of March [1881], while shooting Canada geese (Anser canadensis) at Capt. Lane's, Good Ground, Long Island, a bunch of seven lit on our live stoolers, but out of gun-shot. While we were waiting for our tender to swim them nearer we had an opportunity to watch their movements as they washed and plumed themselves. The captain called attention to the way the gander was marked; his head had large spots of white on it instead of being all black. When we shot he was not among those killed, so we had no chance to examine him further. However, among those shot were two that were also partial albinos. In one, the under part of each wing had about thirty pure white feathers in it, and in the other the white throat patch extended to the base of the mandible, which was also white to its tip. The eyes and other markings of these birds were normal.

William Dutcher M.D.