It’s Peak Bird-Watching Season in Central Park; Birding Bob and the Gang Are Soaring

By Joy Bergmann

“A Parula Warbler! Amazing…oh my god.”

“Female Prairie Warbler right below it.”

“See the Palm Warbler bobbing its tail?”

“Straight ahead, Black-throated Blue Warbler!”

Spotted Sandpiper over the water.”

Hermit Thrush on the grass.”

“Look past the holly, to the daffodils there. Eastern Towhee.”

“Way up top, Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher.”

Blue-headed Vireo, too.”

“Hold on! In the red bush…yes, yes, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet!”

Adrenaline is running high among amateur ornithologists as dozens of species of migratory birds make their annual pit stops in Central Park.

“I cannot recommend it highly enough,” says Nancy Shamban, a retired therapist who’s making daily visits during these peak birding weeks – typically late April through May. “It’s a gorgeous park, everybody’s happy to be here. And in these crazy times, it’s a meditation. When you’re with the birds, you’re with the birds.”

Early Monday morning, WSR joined a birding walk led by Dr. Robert DeCandido aka Birding Bob who describes his service as, “a comedy routine with bird-watching thrown in.” He says over 230 species either live in or visit Central Park every year, making it a treasured destination for birders from around the globe.


Birders spotted a Palm Warbler in Central Park on Monday. Photo by Deborah Allen.

Harry Boyd from St. George, Utah, times his trips to NYC to visit his son around the spring and fall migrations. “It’s impressive how concentrated the species are,” he says. “We’ve seen 20 species of warblers in a single day.”

Peter, a retired bobby-turned-naturalist-guide from the UK, says he’s bringing six birders over to spend the week peeping through binoculars in search of finds. High on his personal list, the Blackburian Warbler that locals tweeted about spotting this past weekend. “Really hoping we might see that one,” he says.

As the group made its way from Strawberry Fields, down to Ladies Pavilion on The Lake, the discoveries kept coming in a mad rush. Northern Waterthrush to the east. A Yellow-Rumped Warbler to the south. A pair of plump grey Cat Birds sitting pretty in their bush seat. A Common Yellowthroat flittering around the forsythia. And lest we get caught up in migratory awe, full-time residents like the Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal and Blue Jay reminded us not to take them for granted.


Dr. Robert DeCandido, “Birding Bob.”

“We’re so lucky to have this park, everything in bloom,” says Marlys Ray. She’s been doing “Bob walks” for years and wanders through park at least twice a day from her home on CPW. With changes in climate and habitat, she says it’s all the more important to get out and appreciate what’s around us now. “It’s so precious.”

To chart your own birding adventure, check out New York City Audubon’s Central Park site, borrow a Discovery Kit from Central Park Conservancy and add your finds to the Twitter compendium #birdcp.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 14 comments | permalink
    1. Mary Jones says:

      Saw a beautiful cardinal right outside our window

    2. dannyboy says:

      PBS showed a piece on bird migration and mentioned that 1/3 of migratory birds in the East stop in Central Park.

    3. Felicia says:

      Wow! Look up at that
      gorgeous Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher.
      Splat! Why always me?

      A haiku

    4. Mike M says:

      Birding Bob’s enthusiasm for using bird-call playback is not shared by all birders. In the single walk I took with BB several years ago I found the extensive use playback disturbing. BB commented at one point that he “love(s) driving birds crazy.” Part of the comedy routine I guess.

      • Rachel Holdeman says:

        He should be reported to the ABA. The use of playback during breeding season is strongly discouraged. In fact, I would go as far as it is unethical.

    5. Wendy says:

      @ 20 years AGO,a guy rescued some pet birds; according to a magazine article. DO NOT get rid of Budgerigars, parakeets, Canaries by PUTTING THEM OUTSIDE. A Toronto , CANADA BLDG. was made so that wild birds would not so much fly into the WINDOWS. STOP The weather wars; the chem com trails. DON”T FEED Rice to wild pigeons & to sparrows ?

    6. ellen says:

      How do we contact “birding Bob?”…thanks!

    7. Linda Brunner says:

      Driving birds crazy is not funny. They are stressed enough as it is by migrating and it does them an injustice. We owe it to these challenged treasures not to make their already difficult lives any harder.

      • dannyboy says:

        I put out wild bird seeds
        $.99 at the pet shop.

      • apologies but using recorded calls does not “drive birds crazy” – I care about birds too…am a PhD scientist with lots of publications on local and international bird topics…and your claim has no basis in fact. Don’t worry! Enjoy the migrant birds – they indeed come in close to my group but then go back to doing what they had been doing after 30 sec to a minute. After 25 years of doing this I have yet to stun, injure, kill any bird using recorded calls. I guess I have failed…BUT in those 25 years people have seen birds up close (better than at the top of a distant tree), and learned a lot about behavior – and what calls birds respond to (and which ones they don’t). You should come on one of my bird walks and see for yourself – you will be amazed and go home with your mind at ease. Read the free weekly Newsletter on my web site for more info

        • Christopher Lyons says:

          There is some scientific evidence about the bad effects of playback and the lack of evidence may (as any scientist should know) simply prove the lack of sufficient research to date. I don’t think you are necessarily causing harm, but there are some strongly suggested guidelines for its use that I hope you follow.

          http://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/04/the-proper-use-of-playback-in-birding/

          It’s not appropriate, or helpful, for you to belittle people, here or elsewhere, for showing concern for wildlife. It sets a bad example. And you’re supposed to be setting a good one. That matters quite a bit more than getting a few extra species for your walks.

    8. http://www.BirdingBob.com – bird walks are $10 each and happen every morning until 10 June – see our schedule for meeting times and places in Central Park on our web site…and yes we have extra binoculars – Bob