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The New York City REDHEAD

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

Redhead 2 March 2021 by Deborah Allen

4 March 2021

Bird Notes: Sunday Bird Walks at 9:30am only continue through 21 March. Starting in late March, bird walks Thursdays through Mondays (gradually).

We are playing our cards close to the vest re early Spring Bird Walks: we will definitely start them the last week of March...but before that weekend it will depend upon the check the Schedule page of this web site. Re Owl Walks: we have five known Great Horned Owl nests in the Bronx we are monitoring. As young ones pop up to be seen, we will take people to them...but only the best ones that provide safe good viewing and photography opportunities.

In this week's Historical Notes, we present data on the Redhead in the NYC region. Until the last few years (since 2015 or so), the Redhead was a rare duck in spring and fall in NYC - and especially so in Central Park. We provide late 19th century through 2000 accounts about how uncommon this duck was in the NYC area, and how its status has changed in some parts of the city. Recently, Baisley Pond in Queens (near Jamaica Bay) has been host to up to 100 Redheads at one time in winter (Jan-Feb)...a remarkable number. Some info on Baisley Pond: here and here.

At the end of the historical notes, we also include a 1959 short essay by John Kieran about ducks on Jerome Reservoir in the Bronx in 1913-14. As a kid Kieran escorted some of the foremost Museum scientists to see those birds, including Redheads. Kieran became a sportswriter for the NY Times - the first feature writer to have his own by-line; and he wrote A Natural History of New York City (1959), and a memorial for Lou Gehrig

"...he showed us what is best in the human being. Though suffering from a fatal disease, he was not bitter, depressed, or turned in on himself, but grateful for his life. And gratitude is fundamental in any kind of spiritual life: to see the goodness in spite of all the difficulties we confront, to say that 'this life is good.'"

Redhead on 28 February 2018 in New Jersey by Deborah Allen

The Central Park Snowy Owl nightly visits to Central Park seemed to have ended about 2 March - the last night it was seen. What a great stay in NYC, more than 30 days, when almost everyone believed the owl would only be here a day at most. Indeed much credit has to go to the Manhattan Bird Alert (@BirdCentralPark) run by the amazing David Barrett. It is a Twitter site, but you can also access it from the internet. Each evening his Twitter alert provided info on if and where the Snowy Owl was being seen in the park...including a video feed of the Snowy Owl on a roof top in west Harlem on the afternoon of 2 March. Here is some info on the Snowy Owl in Central Park from Monday evening, 2 March 2021 - some video by Jane Kratochvil:

in Central Park at night (approx. 9pm) by David Lei on 26 February 2021

Bird Walks for Early to mid-March 2021

All Walks @ $10/person

1. Sunday, 7 March at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10

2. Sunday, 14 March at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10

3. Sunday, 21 March at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10

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

Female + two male Redheads on 2 March 2021 in Oswego NY by Deborah Allen

The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am 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! Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden; Mondays at Strawberry Fields - check the "Meeting Points" page of this web site for exact meeting location.

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 (except Fridays) near the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total) - though the Boathouse is closed right now and will re-open in April 2021 according to the owners. 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 aim to please.

Redhead (male) 2 March 2021 in Oswego New York by Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights):

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 21 February:


Sunday, 28 February (Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am): Please note: the bathrooms at the Boathouse are NOT open. However, we do pass two other sets of bathrooms on the walk. We (Deborah and I) were away in upstate New York on the shores of Lake Ontario (Point Peninsula/Cape Vincent area) to photograph Snowy Owls, Rough-legged Hawks, Trumpeter and Tundra Swans - photos to appear in upcoming issues of this Newsletter. Meanwhile, Sandra Critelli originally of Lake Como (Italy) covered the walk today. Here are her notes:

"The rain started after 1pm so we were ok today.

"We started at Barry Barred Owl, always at the usual location up from the Boathouse. We went to Armando, then the Feeders where a juvenile Red Tailed Hawk was flying low and put up a nice show for everybody. He tried to get a squirrel more than once but failed, then moved aways and back with a half eaten rat in his back and posed for more pictures.

"At the feeders there were many Goldfinches feeding on the ground and on the feeder, some House Fiches male and female, 3 Chickadees, 1 Downy, Morning Dove, White-Throated Sparrow, and a few but not many titmice. By Oak Bridge I found the first Great Blue Heron, while the second one was south of Balcony Bridge.

"We fed the birds a little bit, but they didn’t`t seem so hungry like weeks ago. Then we saw another Red Tailed Hawk and a Cooper on the same tree near Sparrow Rock. "When I was with Jackie only we saw a Cooper chasing Crows a few times at the Great Lawn, and that was fun to watch. "So basically usually birds, nothing new but there was a few new birders so I think it all went well, before the rain." Ciao! Sandra Critelli

Redhead 2 March 2021 in Oswego New York by Deborah Allen


1923. Redhead Duck. No Duck has a more varied or irregular status in our area than this fine species. In parts of eastern Long Island it is locally a common transient, such as on Gardiner's Island and the Great Pond at Montauk. It also occurs regularly on East, Moriches, and Great South Bays. But elsewhere in the region it is a very rare bird, and fortunate indeed is the observer who sees this bird anywhere near New York City. According to William Dutcher (1907): “Locally common on eastern end of island but rather rare transient visitor as a rule elsewhere. 30 Sept. (East Bay) to 9 Jan. (Great South Bay) and 15 Feb. (Montauk) to 22 March (Montauk).

Central Park [1923]. Casual on the Reservoir, January 1, 1903 (Rogers).

Bronx Region [1923/1932]. Casual on Jerome Reservoir, March 21 to April 4, 1914 (numerous observers); January 10, 1915 (Pangburn). According to Kuerzi (1932), a “rather rare transient and winter visitant”: 2 February 1926 (Cruickshank) to 4 April 1914 (numerous observers); 1 November 1923 (Kuerzi) to 28 December 1924 and 18 January 1925 (Kuerzi).

New York State [1923]. Formerly a common transient on the Hudson at Ossining (Fisher), still fairly common (Brandreth); almost unknown elsewhere.

LONG ISLAND. Common transient, uncommon in winter; irregular and local. February 15 to April 15; September 30 to January 9.

ORIENT. Fairly common winter visitant at Gardiner's Island; elsewhere irregular and rare. October 6, 1906 to April 12, 1912.

MASTIC. Uncommon transient, rare in winter.

LONG BEACH. Very rare; seen several times formerly (C. H. Lott); March 12, 1911 (Griscom and LaDow).

ENGLEWOOD (NJ) REGION. Local duck hunters report birds of this species occasionally, but there is no evidence to credit these statements. One definite record, October 9, 1921 (Griscom and Johnson). Otherwise in New Jersey: Practically unknown throughout the area.


1958. Redhead. Central Park. Seven records, 11 November 1948 (Sutton) to 25 February 1956 (Carleton, Messing).

1958. Redhead. Prospect Park. 14 October 1918 (Vietor); 14 October 1939 (Grant); 19 March 1911 (Vietor); 20 March 1914 (old Reservoir – Fleisher).

1974. Redhead. Central Park. Roger Pasquier does NOT mention the Redhead as a species seen in Central Park. However, Hugh McGuiness doing one of the first big year endeavors in New York state found two (2) on 1 January 1974 (along with 115 Canvasbacks and 100 Pine Siskins); a few weeks later on 16 February 1974 he found a lone Redhead (and 150 Canvasback, of which he remarked of the latter, “not uncommon in the 1970s”).

The status of the Redhead was similar for Donald Knowler in 1982 – he did not see it in his year-long survey of birds in Central Park. (See his book, The Falconer of Central Park.) The most recent record we have of a Redhead in Central Park is from 21 February 2018, a male, on the Reservoir; prior to that, on 23 November 2011 Andrew Farnsworth and friend found one on the Reservoir; and Anne Shanahan found five (5) on the Reservoir on 21 January 1997.

Redhead (female) 2 March 2021 by Deborah Allen

REDHEAD on the East River Lower Manhattan (2012)

A solitary male redhead duck can be found among a group of twenty or so lesser scaup drifting about in the area between the Downtown Heliport and Pier 11 (at the east end of Wall Street). For the most part, the redhead remains in close proximity to the pack of scaup, but he will occasionally work his way closer to the promenade along the FDR and Pier 11, providing good views.

2 February 2012

Chris Gadsen


To: nysbirds-list

Subject: Queens and Kings Co. report on a brisk day

Date: 6 January 2018

At Baisley Pond [Queens] - two small areas of open water the most productive is all the way at the north end. The numbers of Redheads continue to hold steady and I counted 97 today a few more than my January 2nd count of 94. Other waterfowl numbers were down most notably among the Ring-necked Ducks. Down to 27 today from 43 noted on January 2nd [2018]


Baisley Pond, Queens County, New York

14 January 2018

60 Redhead: Counted all that were visible, but some may have been cut off from my view by the reeds so likely more

32 Ring-necked Duck

Ryan Serio


19 Redhead ~ Great Kills Park [Staten Island]

24 February 2018

In water off of beach center

José Ramírez-Garofalo Redhead 2 March 2021 by Deborah Allen

From John Kieran, 1959:

This matter is close to my heart because it was through the fact that the rear attic window of our house overlooked the waters of the Jerome Reservoir in the Bronx that I became acquainted with two noted ornithologists. It was during the winter of 1913-1914, at which time I had developed a lively interest in birds, that I began to take notice of ducks congregating on the reservoir. I saw them first from the rear window of the attic room in which I slept. I immediately armed myself with field glasses and went out to inspect the ducks at closer range by peering at them through the iron picket fence surrounding the reservoir. I remember that the first bird I brought in focus turned out to be a White-winged Scoter and, looking back, I recall seeing Canvasback, Redheads, Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and, in all, fourteen different species of waterfowl on the reservoir that winter.

Standing in front of a cageful of North American warblers in the Bird House at the Bronx Zoo one cold day, I met three elderly men who, from their talk, evidently were much interested in birds. I told them about the ducks on the reservoir and they were so much stirred by the news that we left the zoo together and plodded westward through the snow to the reservoir, where the ducks were duly seen as advertised. One of these men was a proofreader for the New York Daily Mail, a newspaper long since defunct, and under the pseudonym of "The Pelham Observer" he contributed occasional nature notes to a column on the editorial page of the paper. In telling of the ducks on the reservoir, he mentioned me by name as his guide on the expedition. It was the first time that my name ever appeared in print and I was naturally impressed by it.

Incited by the public notice in the newspaper, two men from the American Museum of Natural History appeared on the scene the following Saturday afternoon and found me watching the ducks as usual. The men were Ludlow Griscom and Charles H. Rogers, who were then growing up as ornithologists under the great Frank M. Chapman at the museum. After they had checked on the ducks, they set off to prowl the Van Cortlandt Park region and I was invited to go with them, a privilege I properly appreciated. They made repeated visits to the reservoir during the winter and each time I seized the opportunity to tag along on their further travels and glean something from their store of knowledge of ornithology. Impressed by my enthusiasm and my faithfulness in keeping good watch on the reservoir ducks, Dr. Rogers suggested that I attend the meetings of the Society, a scientific group that met on alternate Tuesdays at 8 P.M. in one of the smaller rooms in the old building of the American Museum of Natural History. I attended as a guest for some months and then, nominated by Charles Rogers and seconded by Ludlow Griscom, I was elected a member of the society late in 1914 and have been a member ever since.

I was naturally awed by the noted professional ornithologists and the keen amateurs among whom I found myself in these gatherings of long ago. The regular attendants at the meetings included that wonderful old gentleman Dr. Jonathan Dwight, the ultimate authority on gull plumages; Waldron DeWitt Miller, who never let a bird visit New Jersey without making note of it; Charles Urner, poet, printer, philosopher, expert on owls, and a most delightful companion indoors or out; genial Walter Granger, who had been to the Gobi Desert; and John Treadwell Nichols, Lincolnesque in stature and appearance and equally Lincolnesque in wisdom and kindliness, an ichthyologist by profession but a keen birder on the side and perhaps the best man in the field on the shore birds of North America. Of course, Charles Rogers, who was to rise to eminence as an ornithologist at Princeton, and Ludlow Griscom, who was to become Curator of Ornithology at the Agassiz Museum at Harvard, were faithful in attendance; and now and then we had such wanderers as Roy Chapman Andrews, back from Mongolia; William Beebe, up from the ocean depths; Robert Cushman Murphy, returned from Peru; or James P. Chapin on furlough from the Belgian Congo. Being in the room with such men was inspiring; listening to them was an education. Ter quaterque beati [three and four times blessed!] were they in my eyes – and in my heart. I owe them much and here publicly acknowledge a debt far greater than I ever can pay.

Kieran, John. 1959. A Natural History of New York City. A Personal Report after Fifty Years of Study and Enjoyment of Wildlife within the Boundaries of Greater New York. Houghton Mifflin Company. 428pp.

Redhead on 28 February 2018 in New Jersey by Deborah Allen

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Long-tailed Duck (male) at Barnegat Lighthouse (NJ) on 31 March 2018


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