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Early Migration! The Cape May Warbler - Late April in Central Park 2023

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

male Cape May Warbler Deborah Allen

19 April 2023

Bird Notes: The best time in spring for birds starts now through about 25 May. If unsure if a walk will take place, check the Schedule page of our web site for cancellations and/or details about all our walks. Weatherwise, all upcoming days look goooood. Finally, the next two weeks get very busy for us with private walks and the regularly scheduled bird walks (just $10/person) - so if we miss a Newsletter, please be patient.

Migration is heating up: this past Sunday 15 April, our group found the earliest arrival of the Cape May Warbler in Central Park - see Deborah's photo above. We also found the first of season (FOS) Ovenbird warbler (photo below) on the same bird walk. We used sound to bring both species to us. Having many keen eyes on our walks definitely increases the chances of finding the loners, one-offs, misfits and champions too.

To celebrate the earliest record of the Cape May Warbler in Central Park, we send several HISTORICAL NOTES about the occurrence of this warbler in the NYC area. It seems to peak here in spring after 10 May...right around 15 May. In both spring and fall, it has a "sweet tooth." In May we often find it feeding upon nectar in the flowers of the Eurasian shrub Cotoneaster. In autumn some individuals will linger late into November feeding upon the sap of the (Asian) Siberian Elms that have been "worked over" by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Indeed in Historical Note (B) from 1904 on Long Island, the writer describes how Cape May Warblers enjoy feeding upon ripening grapes. Fast-forwarding ahead to Historical Note (F) we send a list of warblers and their arrival dates in nearby Summit, NJ in Spring 1878. Summit is approximately 26 miles west of Central Park. What jumps out most to us is that the timing is somewhat right...Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers and Black-and-whites in April for example, and many species after 7 May. Unfortunately we don't know how often the author was out looking for birds in Summit...or how intensively he was observing (through binocular technology of 1878). And there are notable omissions such as Louisiana (and also Northern) well as Cape May and Mourning Warblers. "Just" a tantalizing note of what warbler migration was like almost 150 years ago.

Ovenbird Central Park 7 May 2008 Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for Mid to Late APRIL 2023

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

1. Thursday, 20 April: (8:30am) Dock on Turtle Pond (south end of the Great Lawn at approx 79th street...opposite Belvedere Castle...adjacent to Delacorte Theater) $10

2. Friday, 21 April: (8:30am). $10. Meet at the Conservatory Garden Conservatory Garden is located at 106th st. and Fifth Avenue. Led by Deborah Allen.

3. Saturday, 22 April at 7:30am AND 9:30am. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. If you do the 730am walk, you get the 930am walk FREE (two for one). Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE.

4. Sunday, 23 April at at 7:30am AND 9:30am. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. If you do the 730am walk, you get the 930am walk FREE (two for one). Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE.

5. Monday, 24 April: (8:30am) Strawberry Fields (72nd st. and Central Park West) $10

6. Thursday, 27 April: (8:30am) Dock on Turtle Pond (south end of the Great Lawn at approx 79th street...opposite Belvedere Castle...adjacent to Delacorte Theater) $10

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

male Cape May Warbler Michigan 2021 Doug Leffler

The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet on Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30am/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. The meeting location is NOT nearby Conservatory Water with its small buildings and Boathouse for model boats...people make this mistake all the time! Here are directions to the Meeting Locations (CLICK HERE) page of our web site. Bathrooms open at about 7:10am at the Boathouse (but the Restaurant/Cafe is closed until June 2023).

Friday morning walks (8:30am) begin on 17 March and run through 2 June. These walks begin at Conservatory Garden (mostly closed for renovation in spring 2023): we meet at 106th street and 5th Avenue (north side of Conservatory Garden). Deborah Allen leads the Friday walks - she knows more about birds than Bob...Her email is: and phone: 347-703-5554. If you want to rent binoculars ($10) please (please) let her know the night before! If you are lost (or god forbid, arrive late) and need to find the group, feel free to call her but do note that 2-3 other people are calling her at the same time...Monday walks at 8:30am meet at Strawberry Fields (at the Imagine Mosaic) which is about 75 meters in from Central Park West. And on Thursdays through (and including 25 May/Thursday), we meet at 8:30am at the Dock on Turtle Pond = where we met all winter).

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. Walks last about 3 hrs (a bit 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. We usually end our M/Th/Sat/Sun Central Park walks at about noon near 79th street and the East Drive.

(male) Purple Martin Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve 18 April 2008 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Friday 14 April through Monday 17 April: Deb's Friday group found many birds including Hermit Thrushes, White-throated Sparrows and warblers including Black-and-white as well as Louisiana Waterthrush. Saturday was slow but we had one of the few Blue-headed Vireos of the day. Sunday was not very birdy - but some migrants arrived overnight including the earliest ever Cape May Warbler (see Deborah's photos herein), and the first of season Ovenbird. Monday was rain rain...glad everyone stayed home.

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 14 April 2023: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 15 April: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 16 April: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 17 April: CANCELLED: Rain

male Cape May Warbler Michigan 2021 Doug Leffler


Cape May Warbler at Shelter Island [Long Island], New York [1893]. While collecting birds here on May 11, 1893, I secured a fine male Cape May Warbler. It was leisurely searching for insects in an oak grove on the very highest point on the island, and showed no alarm at my presence. It came in a 'bird wave' consisting of Warblers, Orioles, Chimney Swifts, Bobolinks, and Thrushes, which came on in numbers on that date or during the night previous.

W.W. Worthington, Shelter Island Heights, New York.

For info on Willis Woodford Worthington: Click Here


Cape May Warblers Destructive to Grapes on Long Island [1904].

With much interest I read of the actions of the Cape May Warbler (Dendroica tigrina) in recent numbers of 'Wilson.' These warblers were especially abundant here last fall and there were twenty or more on our place from September 20 to October 10 [1904]. They might be found at all hours of the day in the grape arbor, where they were observed to puncture the grape skins with their bills and drain out the juice.

James W. Lane, Jr., St. James, Long Island.

For info on James Warren Lane: Click Here


The Cape May Warbler May 1917.

I was interested in reading in the April, 1917, issue of Oologist the statement regarding an increase of the Cape May Warbler.

For several years past I had not seen one of these Warblers, but during May, 1916, they appeared in comparatively large numbers in and near Boonton, N. J.

This was true of many others of the Warbler family; those uncommon in former years being present in large numbers, particularly Bay-breasted and Blackburnian Warblers. There were days when numbers of the birds were to be seen in the trees and shrubbery, and it was possible to get very close to them so that they could be easily identified, even without the use of glasses.

Edward G. Kent, Jersey City, N.J.

female Cape May Warbler Michigan 20 September 2017 Doug Leffler

Cape May Warbler in NYC 1923-2023

1923. Cape May Warbler. Central Park. A regular transient, always common in fall, common or uncommon in spring according to season; thus in 1913 eleven males were recorded between 13 May and 18 May; only two spring records between 1885 and 1909; 6 May 1914 (Griscom) to 24 May 1909 (Griscom); 27 August 1921 (Griscom) to 11 October 1908 (Griscom). BRONX REGION. Uncommon transient 12 May 1918 (L. N. Nichols) to 31 May 1917 (L. N. Nichols); 24 September 1890 (Dwight) to 14 October 1922 (Hix); no adequate fall arrival date. 1958. Cape May Warbler. Central Park. Uncommon spring, fairly common fall transient. 2 May 1954 (Bruce Gordon, Pauline Messing) to 24 May 1909 (Griscom); southbound migrants have been seen as early as 10 May 1931 (Watson) and 22 August 1944 (Komorowski) to as late as 24 October 1956 (Messing). Maximum 14 on 9 September 1953 (Peter Post). Maxima: 10 in Central Park on 3 September 1944. 1959-1967: no new data/records. 1958. Cape May Warbler. Prospect Park. Uncommon spring, fairly common fall transient. 1 May 1954 (Restivo) to 3 June 1945 (Sol, Whelen); on southbound migration: 19 August 1944 (Grant, Soll) and 6 September 1914 (Vietor) to 10 October 10957 (Carleton) and 2 November 1944 (Soll). Maximum six on 14 May 1950 (Kreissman, Whelen). 1959-1967: new early spring arrival date: 23 April 1960 (male - Cashman, Malone, Restivo). 1974+. Cape May Warbler. Central Park. This warbler remains in Central Park into November and occasionally into early December as it feeds on sap from Elm trees (particularly Siberian Elms) - thank the numerous Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in the park for making the wells/holes in these trees. Approximately 3,000 Cape Mays were "precipitated" out of the eye of Hurricane Gloria on 27 September 1985 into a relatively small area at Jones Beach State Park on Long Island as the hurricane passed over that area.

First fall Female Cape May Warbler Michigan 22 August 2017 Doug Leffler

Migration of Some Warblers through Summit, N.J., During the Last Spring [May 1878]

1. Mniotilta varia, Black and White Creeper. — First seen on the 23d of April. These birds breed here.

2. Parula americana, Blue Yellow-backed Warbler [Northern Parula]. — First seen on the 6th of May, and afterward becoming very common. Left about the 12th of May.

3. Helminthophaga pinus. Blue-winged Yellow Warbler [Blue-winged Warbler]. — Obtained a single specimen on the 30th of May. Breeds.

4. Helminthophaga ruficapilla, Nashville Warbler. — First seen about the 10th of May. Saw none after the 11th of May.

5. Dendroica aestiva, Yellow Warbler. — First seen about the 10th of May. Breeds here.

6. Dendroica virens, Black-throated Green Warbler. — First seen May 3, and were common until about the 9th of May, after which time I saw none, though these birds are said to breed here.

7. Dendroica caerluscens, Black-throated Blue Warbler. — First seen May 2d. This bird is not very plentiful in this part of the country. Left about the 9th of May.

8. Dendroica coronata, Yellow-rump Warbler. — First seen on the 28th of April, afterward becoming very common. The day before they left they were so numerous that one tree contained about fifty. The next day, May 12, there was not one to be seen.

Prothonotary Warbler in Michigan May 2021 Doug Leffler

9. Dendroica blackburniae, Blackburnian Warbler. — Saw a single specimen on the 8th of May.

10. Dendroica striata, Black-poll Warbler. — First seen May 12. At the date of writing (June 4) it is still here.

11. Dendroica castanea, Bay-breasted Warbler. — Saw a single bird on 4th of May.

12. Dendroica maculosa, Black and Yellow Warbler [Magnolia Warbler]. — Saw a single bird on the 18th of May.

13. Dendroica palmarum, Yellow Red-poll Warbler [Palm Warbler]. — First seen on the 15th of April, and after that became quite common. They left about the 28th of the same month.

14. Dendroica pinus, Pine Warbler. — Saw a single bird on the 4th of May.

15. Geothlipis trichas, Maryland [Common] Yellow-throat. — First seen on the 6th of May. Breeds here. I found a nest containing five eggs on the 17th of May.

16. Dendroica pennsylvanica, Chestnut-sided Warbler. — First seen on the 6th of May. Left about the 12th. I have seen none since, though they are said to breed here.

17. Icteria virens, Yellow-breasted Chat. — First seen about the 7th of May. Breeds here.

18. Setophaga ruticilla, Redstart. — First seen May 7. Breeds here.

Geo. Lawrence Nichols.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Willow Rock ("The Oven") in Central Park April 2004

1 Comment

Apr 19, 2023

These posts make my day! The birds are so beautiful and the posts so full of good info!

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