Downy Woodpeckers - Picoides pubescens - woodpeckers of NYC

15 Popular NYC Birds and Where to See Them

New York City is home to various birds, from the iconic American Kestrel to the graceful solitary sandpipers. Whether you’re a lifelong New Yorker or just visiting for a few days, it’s worth exploring and enjoying these feathered friends.

This guide will introduce 15 popular NYC birds and tell you where you can spot them in the city. From wooded parks like Central Park and Prospect Park to urban oases like the Ridgewood Reservoir, there are plenty of opportunities for birding in New York City!

We’ll list some popular places to see these birds, but check out this up-to-date bird sighting log. So grab your binoculars, and let’s get started!

American Kestrel – Falco sparverius – NYC Birds

American Kestrel - Falco sparverius - a NYC bird

The American Kestrel (a famous NYC bird) is a small falcon with striking black and white markings. It’s one of the types of birds in NYC that breeds throughout the entire state. The Kestrel is best seen from a distance with binoculars because it’s a small raptor.

You can often see them high in the sky swooping down on prey in various parks. Learn more about other NYC birds of prey: hawk vs falcon, and are they the same?

Where to Find American Kestrels in NYC

  • Central Park
  • Prospect Park
  • Bronx River Parkway

Monk Parakeets – Myiopsitta monachus

Monk Parakeets - Myiopsitta monachus - NYC birds

Photo credit: Monk Parakeets

The Monk Parakeets live in the NYC area in large flocks; they have greenish-grey feathers with grey heads and are incredibly social birds. Look out for their large stick nests built in buildings, trees, or telephone poles! People often wonder how they can survive the cold NYC winters, but the large stick nests provide plenty of insulation and warmth.

Keep on the lookout for these wild parrots of the US!

Where to Find Monk Parakeets in NYC

  • Greenwood Cemetery
  • Brooklyn College

Solitary Sandpipers – Tringa solitaria

Solitary Sandpipers - Tringa solitaria - birds of NYC

The Solitary Sandpiper is a NYC bird with a large wading bird with an elegant, graceful appearance. It breeds in wetlands, marshes, and ponds throughout the NYC area during summer. Unlike most other sandpipers, the solitary Sandpiper makes its nest high up in trees instead of on the ground.

Look for them in slow-moving waters feeding on small insects near the water’s edge.

While many birds migrate in groups, solitary sandpipers do not. They spend their winters in South America and migrate at nighttime, mostly alone.

Where to Find The Solitary Sandpiper in NYC

  • Turtle Pond in Central Park
  • Greenwood Cemetery
  • Jamaica Bay in Queens
  • Bergen Beach

Kinglets – Regulus satrapa

Kinglets - Regulus satrapa - birds of NYC

Photo credit: Kinglets

You can find these NYC birds in the city’s wooded parks, trees, and hedges. These tiny birds have olive-green backs and white bellies with distinctive yellow crowns. Golden-crowned kinglets are known for their loud, chattering songs that echo through the city’s parks and gardens.

Where to Find Kinglets in NYC

  • Central Park
  • Prospect Park
  • Greenwood Cemetery.

Ospreys – Pandion haliaetus – Birds of NYC

Ospreys - Pandion haliaetus - Birds of NYC

Photo credit: Osprey

The Osprey is a large raptor with black and white feathers, a hooked beak, and talons perfect for catching fish. The soles of Osprey’s feet have a barbed pad that allows them to grip their slippery fish meal easily.

They migrate to NYC in the late spring and summer months, where you can see fishing from waterways like Jamaica Bay in Queens or the Hudson River.

Where to Find Ospreys in NYC

  • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge – Queens
  • Pelham Bay Park – Bronx
  • Alley Pond Park

Gadwalls – Mareca strepera

Gadwalls - Mareca strepera - Ducks of NYC

Photo credit: Gadwalls

Gadwalls are medium-sized ducks that breed in the northern hemisphere and are great birds of NYC. They have a greyish-brown plumage and a brown head with yellow legs.

However, their appearance can resemble a Mallard duck. The male of the species has a distinctive black rear end and tail used to attract females during mating season.

Where to Find Gadwalls in NYC

  • Staten Island near the Bayonne Golf Club
  • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
  • Governors Island
  • Central Park Reservoir

Red–Shouldered Hawks – Buteo lineatus

Red–Shouldered Hawks - Buteo lineatus - NYC birds

The Red-shouldered hawks are very loud and vocal birds. You’ll often see them perched high on poles or treetops. The juveniles have see-through feathers, whereas the adults have signature orange markings.

Blue-Jays are known to imitate the red-shouldered hawks’ calls with impeccable accuracy. For more information on Blue-Jays check out examples of blue and black birds.

Sightings usually happen in the spring and summer.

Where to Find Red-Shouldered Hawks in NYC

  • Highland Park/Ridgewood reservoir
  • The Bronx River Parkway Park
  • Prospect Park

Red-Bellied Woodpeckers – Melanerpes carolinus

Red-Bellied Woodpeckers - Melanerpes carolinus - NYC birds

The Red-Bellied woodpecker is a prevalent sight throughout New York City. In fact, it’s one of the most-seen woodpeckers in New York. But that’s not the only aspect of them worth celebrating!

This bird species proves to be a great asset in controlling insect populations by consuming large amounts of wood-boring beetles. Not just this–they also feast on acorns, ants, fruits, and other insects.

Even though their name implies they have a red belly, they do not. Instead, they have a light red crown. The female has a reddish patch on her lower abdomen, which is not easily seen.

Where to Find Red-Bellied Woodpeckers in NYC

  • Highland Park/Ridgewood reservoir
  • Central Park
  • The Bronx River Parkway Park
  • Prospect Park

Cedar Waxwings (NYC Birds) – Bombycilla cedrorum

Cedar Waxwings - Bombycilla cedrorum - NYC birds

The Cedar Waxwing is a beautiful, small songbird characterized by its glossy, brownish-black body, pale yellow belly, and bright yellow tail feathers. Depending on their diet some cedar waxwings can have orange tail feathers. Just like Starlings are often seen in flocks foraging for food among trees or shrubs.

Where to Find Cedar Waxwings in NYC

  • Ridgewood reservoir/Highland Park
  • Greenwood Cemetery
  • Dyker Beach Park
  • Randalls Island

Red-eyed Vireos – Vireo olivaceus (NYC Birds)

Red-eyed Vireos - Vireo olivaceus - NYC birds

Red-eyed vireos are small NYC birds with greenish-gray feathers and white bellies. They have red eyes and a black stripe from their beak to the back of their head. The Red-eyed vireos are usually solitary birds that feed on berries, plants, and insects. You might see them in wooded parks or trees, singing loudly.

Where to Find Vireos in NYC

  • Hempstead Lake State Park (Long Island)
  • Rye Nature Center
  • Prospect Park
  • Inwood Hill Park

Black-crowned Night Herons – Nycticorax nycticorax

Black-crowned Night Herons - Nycticorax nycticorax - NYC birds

Black-crowned Night Herons are birds with black feathers on the top of their heads, grayish-white feathers on the rest of their bodies, and black beaks. They usually live near water, are solitary, and can see them at night.

Where to Find Black-crowned Night Herons in NYC

  • Marine Park
  • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
  • Central Park – The North Woods
  • Randalls Island

Wood Thrush – Hylocichla mustelina – (NYC Birds)

Wood Thrush - Hylocichla mustelina - (NYC Birds) - NYC birds

The Wood Thrush is a stunningly beautiful songbird that you can find in deciduous and mixed forests throughout much of North America. It is about the size of a red robin, (learn more about robins and what they eat during the winter here) with a mottled, brown back, speckled breast, and white belly. Its most distinct feature is its reddish-brown head with white spots on the abdomen.

Wood Thrushes are pretty vocal, producing a melodious flute-like song.

Where to Find Wood Thrush in NYC

  • Alley Pond Park
  • Rye Nature Center
  • Inwood Hill Park
  • Forest Park


Downy Woodpeckers – Picoides pubescens

Downy Woodpeckers - Picoides pubescens - woodpeckers of NYC

The Downy woodpecker, a sparrow-sized bird that boasts black and white plumage, can be located virtually everywhere in the United States – except for arid southwestern regions.

Downy woodpeckers are common in New York, and you can find them in woods, parks, and gardens, as well as hanging around backyard bird feeders. If you are wondering, “do downy woodpeckers migrate?” the answer is “no”; they are not on the list of migrating woodpeckers! Its male’s small red patch quickly identifies this species on its neck.

Fascinatingly, Downy woodpeckers join forces with other species during winter to form a collective. Each bird inside this heterogenous flock looks out for danger and alerts the group when predators are near. Truly remarkable!

Where to Find Downy Woodpeckers in NYC

  • Rye Nature Center
  • Central Park
  • Prospect Park
  • Ridgewood reservoir/Highland Park
  • Forest Park

Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis

Gray Catbird - Dumetella carolinensis - a NYC bird

The NYC Gray Catbird is an intriguing, medium-sized songbird native to the eastern and central United States. It has a distinctive grayish-black plumage with brown underneath its tail and a black cap on its head. They are famous for their ability to mimic other sounds and birds.

The Gray Catbirds migrate to New York City in the spring. They fly North from the Caribbean, southern US, Mexico, and South America, where they breed for the summer. You may see them foraging for food through shrubs or trees and around bird feeders.

Where to Find Gray Catbirds in NYC

  • Central Park
  • Prospect Park
  • Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
  • Dyker Beach Park
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Shirley Chisholm State Park

Bald Eagles – Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Bald Eagles - Haliaeetus leucocephalus - NYC bird

Eagles are enormous predatory NYC birds that often migrate to follow salmon! Do Eagles hunt at night? No, Since eagles are diurnal, they hunt during the day and sleep at night. Keep in mind that eagles are apex predators, which means that they are at the top of the food chain.

Where to Find Bald Eagles in NYC

  • Hempstead Lake State Park, Long Island
  • Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
  • Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
  • Great Kills Park, Staten Island

Final Thoughts on NYC Birds and Where to See Them

While NYC is home to many species of birds, it is also a stopover site for many migratory birds. Most parks, rivers, lakes, and oceans surrounding NYC are great places to spot unique birds. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert birder, NYC provides plenty of opportunities to observe and marvel at the beauty of birds. So keep your eyes open, grab your binoculars, and explore!

Happy birding! 🙂 🐦 🦅 🐤 🕊️ 

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