Prospect Park is a 526-acre urban oasis located in the heart of Brooklyn, offering a diverse variety of bird species for the novice or expert birder. A total of at least 270 species have been observed since records have been kept. Over the years, thirty-six eastern warblers have been recorded, with thirty-five species usually seen annually. In 1998, 200 total bird species were seen. Our last ten Christmas Bird Counts held in mid-December have averaged fifty-eight species, a major portion of Brooklyn's overall 100 plus species seen during this annual event. Adjoining Prospect Park are the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Green-Wood Cemetery, whose varied terrain serves as a complement to Prospect Park's birding areas. In essence, this 1300-acre complex is a birder's haven for the variety of passerines, waterfowl and raptors observed seasonally.
Designed by the architects of Manhattan's Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Prospect Park provides the crucial habitat needed for hungry migratory, breeding and wintering birds of the Atlantic flyway. An almost native woodland, Prospect Park has an extensive variety of plants, trees and shrubs that afford migrants and breeders necessary nourishment. The confined territory of Prospect Park gives the spring birder an opportunity to observe 20 or more warbler species and numerous other migrants on good days. Bird Migration Day of May 12, 1996 yielded 114 total species! The peak time for Spring migrants usually ranges from late April to late May. Autumn's show begins in mid-August, continuing through October for passerines and raptors; and extending into late fall for waterfowl, ducks and arriving winter species.
Winter in Prospect may be a challenging but rewarding period, as surprises are always possible. Sparrows, finches and ducks predominate the season. The winter of 1996-1997 tallied 18 duck species on Prospect Lake. (See the Prospect Park checklist for further details.)
The best migratory locations and "hotspots" are: Lookout Hill, The Peninsula, The Lullwater, The Pagoda, The Midwood, Payne Hill, Quaker Ridge, Center Drive and The Vale of Cashmere. Prospect Lake is a productive habitat for autumn and winter waterfowl species. Butterflies, dragonflies and wildflowers abound as well. Nature displays its varied beauty in Prospect Park.
Contributed by Peter Dorosh
The Brooklyn Bird Club, founded by Dr. Edward Vietor, has been a mainstay in Prospect Park since 1909. The park is home base for many of the club's activities. Join us on our forays in one of New York City's well-kept birding secrets. For a suggested birding itinerary, click on one of the Tours listed below.
Tour 1: Lookout Hill and The Peninsula
Tour 2: Vale of Cashmere, The Midwood and The Binnen Waters
Tour 3: The Long Meadow, Swanboat Pond, Center Drive and the Nethermead
Tour 4: The Waterways
The Prospect Park Alliance [http://www.prospectpark.org] is a non- profit partnership between the City of New York Parks & Recreation, the Borough of Brooklyn, corporations and individuals. Check their site for full park information, including schedules of special events and volunteer programs.
Prospect Park Audubon Center at the Boathouse. Get the latest news about New York City's very first Audubon Center. Check the site frequently for schedules of special events and recent bird sightings.
Prospect Park Checklist: A complete seasonal checklist to the birds of Prospect Park, in PDF format. Prints two-sides on legal-size (8-1/2 x 14) paper. Adobe Acrobat Reader is required; click here to download a free copy
Prospect Park Map: Prospect Park map in PDF format with birding hot-spots indicated. An interactive map is also available on the Prospect Park Alliance website here.
Directions: By car, Prospect Park can be reached via the major bridges. From the Manhattan Bridge, take Flatbush Avenue straight into Grand Army Plaza. Stay right around the circle, and go down Prospect Park West. Park along the street or the Litchfield Villa parking lot on 5th street. From the Verrazano Bridge, take the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway towards Manhattan. Exit at the Prospect Expressway. Take the Prospect Expressway to the 11th Avenue exit; go straight out the exit to 11th Avenue and turn left. Drive 4 blocks until you see the park. For train travelers, subway stations are Grand Army Plaza stop on the IRT lines, numbers 1 or 2 trains. From the IND F line, exit at either the 7th Avenue, 15th St./Prospect Park, or Fort Hamilton stations. You can also take the IND Q line to the 7th Avenue station. From this station, walk south 3 blocks on Flatbush Avenue to reach the park.
A Note Concerning the Tours: The purpose of these walking tours is to familiarize one with some of the landmarks and birding hotspots in Prospect Park. While the synopsis contains some of the avian and botanical species one might encounter, it is not intended as a complete guide for the flora and fauna of this area.
It is hoped that through greater use and familiarization the birding enthusiast can come to enjoy and appreciate the huge diversity of species found in this great urban park.
While New York City has experienced an unprecedented drop in crime in recent years, it is still recommended that Prospect Park be treated as any other urban park. Reasonable precautions should always be taken to protect one's self and property, and if possible, travel in pairs.
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