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An Old-time Naturalist in Central Park 1895-1915: Anne Crolius

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Black-capped Chickadee at the New York Botanical Garden on 16 January 2023 by Deborah Allen

26 January 2023

Bird Notes: Bird Walks every Sunday at 9:30am meeting at the Dock on Turtle Pond. SCHEDULE (click) + Meeting Locations HERE. The next Newsletter will be published approximately 15 February.

Anne A. Crolius set up the first "official" feeding station in the Ramble of Central Park for Black-capped Chickadees, White-throated Sparrows and others in the late 19th century. However! There is no mention of Tufted Titmice - so where were they in 1900? Sometimes the historical reports are as important for what they don't mention as much as what they do...Anyway, it seems easy to dismiss the bird (and squirrel) feeders of Central Park, but such people who are in the park everyday also contribute notable observations, important to the scientists of the nearby American Museum - as a short note attests from Ludlow Griscom (click) about Ms. Crolius and others we've placed in the Historical Notes section of this Newsletter

Otherwise this is January 2023, and birds/people are just trying to survive the weather and the blues. Though it continues to be an exceptional year for Tufted Titmice in the area (who in 1900 were found as far north as southern New Jersey...this past year they nested for the first time in the Adirondacks in upstate NY), it is the first year we can remember when Tufted Titimice significantly outnumber Black-capped Chickadees in Central Park. Where are all the American Goldfinches? We usually have 30-50 at the bird feeders in the Ramble. This year 4-6 is a big number...but no mention of them at the 1900 bird feeders. Long-time birders of Central Park will be happy to know that some of the bird species we see today (White-throated Sparrows; Fox Sparrows; White-breasted Nuthatches and even Cardinals) were present in winter in 1900. But in a 1990-2023 winter we see significantly more species and individuals than 100+ years ago! This includes hawks, owls and yes even Titmice.

Which brings us to the weather: we include two recently written articles about the weather in NYC in December 2022. "This was the 21st December with no snow and the 14th in which neither November or October had measurable snow (the previous time this happened was in 2015)." The standout weather story of 2022 was the 50F degree drop in temperature from 58F to 8F on 23 December. "This 50-degree plunge established a new record for greatest temperature drop of any calendar date in NYC, breaking the previous record of a 48-degree nosedive more than 100 years earlier, on 28 March 1921. (That drop, however, is more impressive because it happened in just 10 hours while 2022’s drop took twice as long.)"

Blue Waxbill Botswana (Senyati Camp), 23 Nov 2022 Deborah Allen

In our Historical Notes we send (a) a 1901 article by Anne Crolius describing how she fed 38 pounds of bird seed in winter to various species in Central Park (but no Titmice). Cardinals (two or three) were in the park, but she only mentions Fox Sparrows in March - a time of the year when they are heading north; in (b) Ms. Crolius describes a wonderful November 1900 day in Central Park - with birds of course: Cedarbirds (Cedar Waxwings) find their way into her note to the New York Times; in (c) Ludlow Griscom (click) describes the importance of Ms. Crolius and others for his bird research in Central Park; in (d) a November 1899 article by Anne Crolius describing her original attempts to "tame" (by feeding) the Black-capped Chickadees and other birds of the Ramble starting in 1898. Finally in (e/f) two articles by Rob Frydlewicz about the weather in Central Park/NYC in December 2022 including the day with the single largest drop in temperature in our history.

Yellow-billed Kite Botswana (Senyati Camp), 22 Nov 2022 Deborah Allen

(below) Red-faced Mousebird Namibia (Caprivi Strip), 20 November 2022 Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for Late January to mid-February 2023

All Walks @ $10/person

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found: (Click) here

1. Sunday, 29 January at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle.

2. Sunday, 5 February at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle. Note: Sandra Critelli will lead today's walk as Deborah and Bob are in Morocco - we will see everyone next Sunday, 12 February at 9:30am

3. Sunday, 12 February at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle. Deborah and Bob are back from Morocco for this morning's walk.

Call (718-828-8262/home) or Email us with questions:


The fine print: Our walks on weekends in winter meet on Sundays at 9:30am at the Dock on Turtle Pond (approx. 79th street in the middle of the the south end of the Great Lawn). Please note: Delacorte Theater is just next door...find the path (paved) that heads out to Turtle Pond and you will indeed reach a wooden dock that extends into the pond. Check the Meeting Locations (CLICK HERE) page of our web site for detailed directions.

Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is ( 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 at about noon near 79th street and the East Drive - about 150 meters east from where we started. Walks last about 3 hrs (less if cold 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 aim to please.

Red-backed Shrike Botswana (Senyati Camp), 23 Nov. 2022 D. Allen

(below) Bearded Scrub Robin Botswana (Senyati Camp), 23 November 2022 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week - some brief highlights:

22 January 2023 (Sunday): Yikes it's January and we are happy that there has been no snow - and we are likely to break a record on 29 January for no snow (more on that in the next Newsletter). OK so we had three Eastern Towhees today (the ongoing two males and a female); the continuing Great Horned Owl (she is now here for one year); Cooper's Hawks doing display flights together; and we had no (0) Red-breasted Nuthatches - the first bird walk without any since they arrived in the park in number back in September or so. Otherwise, Deborah's list is long on waterfowl and Tufted Titmice, and where are all the Goldfinches?

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 22 January 2023: Click Here!

Rusty Blackbird (male) at NYBG (the Bronx) on 16 January 2023 Deborah Allen

(below) Rusty Blackbird (male) at NYBG (the Bronx) on 16 Jan 2023 Deborah Allen


Feeding Birds of Central Park [1901].

Anne A. Crolius

MY experience in feeding birds that are residents of Central Park in the Winter months has brought me a host of interesting facts as to bird life as well as some interesting experiences. Birds are moody as well as humans, and the strains and stress of life try them as ours try us. They soon come to know you if you feed them in their necessity, and will watch for your coming and show their delight as you approach and their gratitude when you have served them.

I was more than pleased to see how many white-throated sparrows wintered here. If in other parts of the park there were as many, there must have been hundreds. I had daily during the cold and severe weather seventy to eighty white-throated sparrows, two song sparrows, two or three cardinals and downy woodpeckers, and never more than a half-dozen English sparrows to feed, the latter taking to the streets in severe storms, a fact that is very satisfactory to those who are feeding the birds. One of the flickers came to my feeding ground January 31 in a most dilapidated condition and remained half a day much to the disturbance of the other birds. He spread himself on the ground, yelled, and ate the bits of meat and suet as if he were half-starved. Early in March fox sparrows, robins, and purple [common] grackles were my guests. The latter were so ravenous I was finally obliged to feed them elsewhere. "Highway robbers," one called them who was very fond of the other birds, and I think the name quite appropriate.

Fox Sparrow Central Park on 25 December 2022 Deborah Allen

The gala day of the season was March 17 [1902], when two hermit thrushes, six fox sparrows, robins, song and white-throated sparrows, cardinals, and juncos came for food. People passing said it was a beautiful sight to see such a variety of birds in one place so early in the Spring.

I have read of birds being fascinated by the bright plumage of other birds and the following incident is proof of this fact. It occurred this Winter after the first snowstorm when the sun shining on a cardinal, made him simply gorgeous. Several white-throated sparrows gathered round him in adoration, drawing closer and closer, until they completely surrounded him. Three of the biggest pushers managed to get their bills so near as almost to touch his. The cardinal evidently was pleased, and when be saw a nice hempseed in the bill of one of his admirers be would take it as daintily as could be, while the white-throated sparrow, a little surprised, looked up as much to say: "You're welcome," and immediately picked up another seed. This occurred a number of times. The white-throated sparrows remained with the cardinal until he had finished his meal, and when he flew into a tree to rest they followed, getting again as near to him as possible and remaining so until I left. The cardinal was very gentle, and never tried to get the right of way on the feeding grounds.

It was quite another matter when a white-throated sparrow tried the same little joke on one of his own family. He snapped his bill and a fight was on, for with spread wings and much sputtering the pair flew up into the air and there fought it out.

During the Winter I used thirty-eight pounds of seed, but when one thinks of a canary who does not have to battle with the elements, eating his little cupful every day, thirty-eight pounds seems a very moderate supply for my large family. If it had not been for half a bushel of nuts and some suet, chopped meat, and bread added to the rations, I am sure I would have come to grief.

Bread I do not think is good food for birds, though it better than nothing. I tried an experiment on white-throated sparrows and noticed when I gave them bread alone, that after eating it they flew to the trees with their crops looking as if they had swallowed a ball, and showed by every motion that they were very uncomfortable. It was quite different after a good meal of seed or hopped nuts. Then they would fly to the trees, and, with crops not puffed out, would often sing their sweet Winter song, no matter how severe the weather might be. The hermit thrushes and robins who were here all Winter, seemed to enjoy the bread immensely, but they sandwiched it with chopped meat and I saw no bad effects.



A November Day in the Park [1900] To the Editor of the New York Times While everyone was greeted this morning with, "This is a horrible day; how are we going to stand it?"&c., I wended my way to Central Park to hear what my feathered friends would have to say. I knew that in Summer this would be an ideal day for them, for they dote on muggy weather and are always joyous and sing with a will. But a muggy November day will be another thing, I queried, as I stepped gingerly along on slippery walks, not being overanxious to get near enough to have a close conversation with them. I found the park looking beautiful in its bronze costumes, with here and there a robe of red to brighten them, to say nothing of the glorious evergreens. And the birds? They were beyond my expectations, not only in numbers and varieties but in song. Fox Sparrows were singing their full song, while white-throated and song sparrows, English goldfinches and chickadees were doing their best. Recitatives were given by juncos, cedar birds, nuthatches, brown creepers, downy woodpeckers and starlings. Robins were chatting as they ran along on the grass, making one think that Spring was truly here, when the thought came to me - if I could only hear one sing, that would make the day perfect. The sun was trying its best to force its way through the clouds, and finally, finding a spot convenient, it shown forth, casting its golden beams on the grass, where the robins were holding a reception. Without one bit of warning, one flew to a tree and poured forth his note of thanks in his full Spring song. I was riveted to the spot, wondering if I was still on the earth. Gathering myself together, I moved for an encore, but the sun went back to his den, and Mr. Robin, refusing my request, returned to his friends, while I gave thanks for one of the most delightful mornings of my life. ANNE A. CROLIUS New York, Nov. 20, 1900



In the brief space available I cannot adequately describe the wealth of material, founded on daily observation, available for the present report. For instance, Miss Anne A. Crolius, a most reliable and conservative student, visited the Park more than 250 times annually between 1895 and 1915, a record of consistent observation probably unequalled in this country. Ever since 1907, when my observations commenced, dozens of observers have hunted in the Ramble every spring. The dozens last spring were totally different from the dozens eight years ago, and all were totally different people from the dozens in 1907, but while their interest lasted I saw most of them every day and collected the migration records of interest that I knew to be reliable. Every year there have been those who kindly cooperated in my effort to obtain complete records, and who interrogated mutual acquaintances whom I missed, and handed on the information of interest.

Ludlow Griscom

Black-capped Chickadee Central Park 31 Oct 2022 Aniket

How the Central Park Chickadees Were Tamed [1899]

Anne A. Crolius

IN the early part of the winter of 1898-99 Chickadees were unusually abundant in Central Park, New York City, and a friend and myself saw them come down and get some of the nuts we were feeding to White-throated Sparrows. We were, of course, much interested, and determined to see if we could tame them. They would take the nuts to a limb, eat all they wished, and hide the rest in crevices in trees or bushes, where, I think, they seldom found them again, for the impudent and ever wide-awake English Sparrow watched and got the pieces almost as soon as they were deposited. After feeding them in this way for some time, we tried to get them to eat from our hands, and finally succeeded by first placing our hands on the ground with a nut about a foot from our fingers, then a little nearer, then on the ends of our fingers, and lastly in the palms of our hands. There was a great shout when they hopped on our hands the first time, our delight being indescribable. Finding that kneeling or bending over on the ground was rather hard work, we tried holding out our hands when standing, or while sitting on the benches, and they very soon came, no matter where we were or in what attitude. The little creatures never seemed to get tired if we remained hours at a time, and it was indeed difficult to tear oneself away. Just as I would make up my mind to be off one would fly over my head calling chick-a-dee-dee in such a bewitching way as to make it impossible to leave. I would say to myself, "Just one piece more," then throw a lot of nuts on the ground and make a 'bee line' for home, never looking back for fear the temptation would be too great, and I should find myself retracing my steps. After a time they would come to me and follow me anywhere in the park, whenever I called them, and getting better acquainted I found the birds possessed of so many different traits of character that I named each one accordingly. One I called the 'Scatterer,' because he stood on my hand and deliberately threw piece after piece of nut on the ground, looking down as they fell with the most mischievous twinkle in his eyes, as much as to say, "see what I've done," then take a piece and fly away. This he did dozens of times in succession. I thought at first he would rather pick them up from the ground, but he came directly back and waited for me to do it. Another I called "Little Ruffled Breast," on account of the feathers on the breast being rough and much darker than the rest. He was the most affectionate, had a sweet disposition, and, like human beings of the same character, was often imposed upon, many times being driven off by the others when he was just about taking a nut. He was very tame, and had perfect confidence in anyone who would feed him. The third I named the 'Boss,' because he took the lead and carried the day. He was a beauty, spick and span in his dress, not a feather out of place, and plump and perfect in form. The fourth, dubbed 'Little Greedy,' was very fascinating, and I must confess to loving him more than the rest, having had a most novel experience with him. and one never to be forgotten. He came to me one morning, and, lighting on my hand, sang chick-adee-dee two or three times, helped himself to a nut, and, perching on my forefinger, put the nut under his foot, as I have seen them do many a time on the trees, remaining there until he had eaten it. I was thrilled through and through with the sensation and the perfect trustfulness of the little creature, and was sorry when he had finished. But why was he called Greedy? Because he usually took two pieces instead of one, and, strange to say, knew that he must have both the same size or one would fall out. It was very funny to see him with a good sized piece, his bill stretched to its utmost capacity, trying to fit in another. He turned his bill first on one side then on the other, thinking he could wedge it in by forcing it against my hand, and he succeeded in this wonderful feat by his perseverance and indomitable will.

Tufted Titmouse Central Park, 20 November 2020 D. Allen

Tufted Titmouse in Central Park (1908). A Tufted Titmouse spent nearly two weeks in May of this year (1908) in Central Park. It was not shy but, on the contrary, rather enjoyed getting near and surprising you by a loud whistle continuing five minutes or more. I think this is the only record of this species for Central Park.

Anne A. Crolius, New York City.


The range in daily temperature in Central Park, also known as diurnal variation, is typically 14 degrees, and ranges from 11 degrees [Fahrenheit] in December and January, to 17F degrees in May. However, variations by individual days generally range between five and thirty degrees. Variations are affected by atmospheric conditions such as humidity, cloud cover, passage of cold/warm fronts, wind direction, and precipitation.

On 23 December 2022 mild air drawn up the coast by a fast-moving coastal storm crashed into a strong Arctic front moving southeastward, resulting in a drop in temperature from 58F to 8F. This 50-degree plunge established a new record for greatest temperature drop of any calendar date, breaking the previous record of a 48-degree nosedive more than 100 years earlier, on 28 March 1921. (That drop, however, is more impressive because it happened in just 10 hours while 2022’s drop took twice as long.) In the 1970-2020 period, 4 April 1995, had the warmest temperature (68F) to plunge into a sub-freezing temperature (28F) at the end of the day.

Drops in temperature of 40 degrees or more in a day are infrequent, with just 19 such instances reported since 1869 (about once every seven years). However, this year’s was the first drop of 40F+ degrees of the century; the previous occurrence was on 22 December 1998. (Oddly enough, 1962 and 1990 each experienced two of these drops.)

At the other end of the spectrum are daily variations of, one, two, or three degrees. There have been only seven instances of days with a one-degree change (in other words, happening once every generation). The last time was on 14 December 1996 (the high/low was 40F/39F). Days with variances of two degrees occur, on average, once every two years (most recently on 13 May 2018 when the high/low was 54F/52F). And an average year sees one or two days with three-degree variations (most recently on 28 January 2022 when the high/low was 32F/29F).

Most of the big daily swings in temperature have occurred between January and May. For the purposes of this analysis I chose changes of 33 degrees or more as the qualifier. Swings of this magnitude have occurred nearly 200 times (thru 2022), an average of 1.3 days per year. 1990 has had the most - seven days. (Sixteen years have had no such days, including three in a row from 1982 to 1984.)

By month, the smallest difference between the average high and low occurred in November 1977, when it was only 8.4 degrees (high of 51.5F/low of 43.1F). The greatest difference between the high/low was 21.6F degrees in May 1941 (high of 75.5F/low of 53.9F).

Half of the months with variations less than 11 degrees have occurred since 2001, while just 20% of variations greater than 18F degrees have occurred in this century (the last time was in May 2015 when there was a 19.8F degree variation). This is likely a function of global warming, as overnight temperatures have risen at a faster rather than high temps.

Although daily temperature variations of two or three degrees occur just a couple of times each year, in 1970 there were five such occurrences in a fifteen-day period, between 11 to 25 December.

Finally, the most instances of a variation of 33F+ degrees by date have occurred on April 19 and April 25, both which have had it happen six times. April 25th's include the consecutive years of 1960, 1961 and 1962.

December 2022 was the rainiest month of the year and also featured the coldest reading of all of 2022; this reading of 7F was the coldest temperature in December since 1989. The month's other stand-out weather story unfolded during its last nine days when there were wild swings in temperature. Overall, the month's average temperature was 0.6 degrees below average (average high was just about average, while the average low was a degree below average.).

From 24 to 30 December, temperatures swung from 25F below average (7F on 24 December) to 21F above average (62F on 30 December). But the wildest swing was on 23 December when the mercury plunged 50 degrees between 4AM and midnight, from 58F to 8F. This was the greatest daily change in temperature on record (breaking a 101-year record, of 48 degrees in March 1921).

This was just the fourth December to be the wettest month of a year (the other years were 1957 [5.26 inches of rain]; 1973 [9.98"; and 2019 [7.09"]). Although the amount of precipitation measured, 5.83", was 1.45" above average (making it the 20th wettest December on record), it was about three inches less than the average amount of a year's wettest month.

Three rainstorms in December produced more than an inch of rain. The last of them, on 22-23 December, produced the most, with 2.06" measured. Much of the rain (1.33") came down in an hour when a blast of Arctic air collided with a fast-moving coastal storm in the pre-dawn hours of 23 December.

Although a typical December averages nearly five inches of snow, this December had no measurable snow (LaGuardia Airport and Newark Airport, however, had 0.4" and 0.1", respectively). This was the 21st December with no snow and the 14th in which neither November or October had measurable snow (the previous time this happened was in 2015).

December had two days with lows in the 50s, which was the most such days since December 2015 (the mildest December on record), which had 11. This December also had seven days with highs of 55F or warmer, which was one less than Dec. 2021 (which was 4.3 degrees above average), and one more than 2020 (which was 1.7 above average).

Christmas Eve was sunny and bitterly cold (high/low of 15F/7F, with sub-zero wind chill) while one week later New Years Eve was mild (high/low of 55F/50F) and foggy with showers. Christmas Day was sunny and cold (28F/14F) but relatively bearable compared to Christmas Eve.

White-breasted Nuthatch Pel Bay Park (the Bronx) on 22 Dec. 2022 D. Allen

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow our Bird Sightings on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

(above) Owl In Central Park at Bethesda Terrace

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Two more from Anne Crolius:

A Prothonotary Warbler in Central Park, New York City. On May 4 of the present year [1908] I saw and identified a Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) flying back and forth over one of the inlets of the lake in Central Park. I watched it nearly an hour, many times seeing it light in a bush not four feet from where I was sitting. I pronounced it a Prothonotary Warbler, then went to the Museum and examined a skin to make sure of it. I was attracted to the bird by its song which was new to me. On May 5, Mr. Chubb, of the Museum of Natural History, and Dr. Wiegman saw and identified it…

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