March 8, 2018

Winter Birds of Washington Square Park

It is still winter despite daytime highs in the upper 60s and low 70s in late February. Therefore, it's still appropriate to share the winter bird list of Washington Square Park!

Image: Washington Square Park 

Even in winter, Washington Square Park hosts a striking number of bird species. Fourteen species have been recorded in the park between December 21, 2017 and present based on eBird checklists posted by Washington Square Park Eco Projects (of which I am a member) and by me.

Winter Birds of Washington Square Park
  • Cooper's Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Rock Dove (pigeon)
  • Mourning Dove
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Blue Jay
  • American Robin
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • European Starling
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • House Finch
  • House Sparrow

Image: Pigeons, Washington Square Park 

Rock Dove (pigeon) and House Sparrow are the most common in terms of numbers of individuals. This seems to be consistent across the longitudinal survey project being run by Eco Projects. Learn more about the survey in the Washington Square Park State of Nature Report 2017. European Starling is another populous species. All three of these birds were introduced to North America. Curiously, starling and sparrow populations are declining in Europe.

The native Mourning Dove can be seen most days in the park. Look for flocks near the big-kid playground as well as perched on the windowsills of the 37 Washington Square West (MacDougal Street).

Image: White-throated Sparrow by Cephas via Wikimedia Commons

The White-throated Sparrow is one of my favorite birds. I am smitten by its distinctive markings: black and white striped crown, yellow lores, and white throat. (There is a tan-stripe morph.) This sparrow is sometimes overlooked as observers pass over flocks of seemingly only house sparrows. It's worth pausing and scanning that flock with your binoculars.

I won't let you wait any longer. Whenever I'm in the park with my binoculars, most people ask if I'm looking for the (Red-tailed) Hawks, know about them, or seen them. There is a pair of Red-tailed Hawks that nest on a windowsill of the New York University Bobst Library. Eco Projects and blogger Roger Paw have observed the hawks carrying nest material.

Image: Cooper's Hawk by Rhododendrites via Wikimedia Commons

There's also been a Cooper's Hawk sighted every month this year. The pigeons really scatter when this hawk is in the vicinity.

While you can tell that a hawk is in the area, you'll only happen upon the Northern Mockingbird. It's usually tucked into a holly or other small tree or shrub.

The same can't be said for the vivacious Blue Jay. Listen for its loud calls and look for flashes of blue plumage. They are often the first signal that a hawk is about.

Like the Blue Jay, the Northern Cardinal has striking plumage. The male of the species is a brilliant red. The female has a red bill and some red plumage so she's not hard to spot either. We don't get a lot of cardinals in the park so it's a pleasure to see one.

There are two other species with some significant red plumage - the American Robin and the House Finch. In the fall, robins can be found in great numbers in the crabapple grove located between the toddler playground and the Arch. In winter, I've often observed them in the bigger of NW lawns and in the NW canopy. The hotspots for finches in the smaller of the NW lawns. They are often found in the canopy of the Platanus trees in that area. The adult male has a red crown, face, and upper chest.

Image: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (male) by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Wikimedia Commons

You will find the smallest of the North American woodpeckers in the park. This winter, a downy has been seen in the SE section of the park.

Of particular interest to me are the sightings of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. The species is uncommon in its range. In addition to seeing the typical morph, we are also seeing the less common adult black-crowned morph. I am happy that Washington Square Park is a host site for this bird.

I didn't include gulls in the formal count but gull sp. have been observed flying overhead in westward and eastward directions.

Spring will bring the hyper-charismatic neotropical migrants but in the meantime there's plenty of bird life to see in Washington Square Park.

Would you like to see photographs of all the birds of Washington Square Park?
View the WSP Eco Projects guides Winter Birds of Washington Square Park and Birds of Washington Square Park on iNaturalist.

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