Author David Barrett Comments on Spring Bird Migration in Central Park

Adverse weather has delayed bird migration, but sought-after warblers, vireos, orioles and tanagers will pass through Central Park in May and draw hundreds of birders.

New York, NY, May 04, 2013 --( Cool weather and prevailing northerly winds along the East Coast have delayed this year’s bird migration, but its height is likely to occur during sometime during the next two weeks. Hundreds of birders of local, regional, and even international origin will come to Central Park to view one of nature’s grand spectacles.

Many of the most vividly colorful Eastern birds are migrants. They winter as far south as South America and then return in the spring to breeding grounds as far north as the Arctic Circle. Warblers, vireos, orioles and tanagers are foremost among the groups that birders will be trying to observe.

Many are drawn to these birds for their beauty. Others appreciate them just as much for their rarity. Birders are known to maintain lists of the birds they have seen or heard, and spring migration offers the best time to expand these lists with the rarest and most sought-after species. Increasingly, birders use the website eBird to update their lists daily and to get real-time reports on what other birders are seeing.

Though nearly all the same birds will pass through again in the fall, they are much more easily observed in the spring. There are two reasons for this: males display their distinctive breeding plumage then and—more important—they sing. Their songs uniquely identify them, and certain flycatchers can be conclusively identified only by sound. With trees fully leafed-out, good views can be hard to obtain, but those who can bird “by ear” will still be able to recognize songs and calls.

For birders attempting to have a “big year” —to observe as many species as possible in a chosen geographic area—spring migration is therefore the most crucial time of year. Last year Manhattan resident David Barrett had a big year in his borough and wrote about it in his recently-published book, ”A Big Manhattan Year: Tales of Competitive Birding.” (

In the prime birding days of April and May he would spend four to ten hours in Central Park, logging as much as ten miles of running and walking, sometimes in search of only a single species. He says, “Among the most coveted species are Cerulean Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, and Alder Flycatcher. Those fortunate enough to observe any of them will likely announce their discoveries quickly, via message-board posts or text alerts, thereby gaining credit for their finds and giving birders who respond quickly the chance to also see or hear these rarities.”
David Barrett
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