My 11 Best Bird Watching Spots in New York You Should Try


As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases with no additional costs for you.

New York is most famous for New York City, so it may be surprising to find out that there is still a lot of wildlife, including birds, you can see in the state. Knowing the best birding spots in the state may be challenging, so I compiled this list for you.

The best bird watching spots in New York include those on Long Island, such as Montauk Point State Park, and those on a barrier island, such as Jones Beach State Park. Other good birding sites include many habitats, such as Marshlands Conservancy and Adirondack Park.

The table gives the most exciting birds you can see at each of my top 11 birding spots in New York:

PARKINTERESTING BIRDS YOU CAN SEE
Adirondack ParkBicknell’s Thrush and Black-backed Woodpecker
Jamaica Bay Wildlife RefugeBroad-billed Sandpiper and Clapper Rail
Derby Hill Bird ObservatoryGolden Eagle and Broad-winged Hawk
Jones Beach State ParkCommon Eider and Harlequin Duck
Montauk Point State ParkRazorbill and Brant
Central ParkNorthern Goshawk and Ovenbird
Montezuma National Wildlife RefugeSandhill Crane and Least Bittern
Marshlands ConservancyOsprey and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons
Niagara Falls State ParkSlaty-backed Gull and Black-legged Kittiwake
Tifft Nature Preserve Virginia Rail and Marsh Wren
Bashakill Wildlife Management AreaBald Eagle and Golden-winged Warbler
Best Places to Bird Watch in New York

Read more to learn about the best spots to bird watch in New York and to know which bird species to find in each location.

Best Bird Watching Spots in New York
Best Bird Watching Spots in New York

TIP: If you want to check out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Best Places to Bird Watch in New York

New York has many good places to bird watch, from urban parks to extensive wilderness areas.

  1. Adirondack Park

At 6 million acres, this is the largest protected area in the contiguous United States. Two good places in this vast area that are good for birds are the trailhead for Wakely Mountain and Rock Lake. 

Several birds can be seen in the Adirondack Park area. Special bird species include Bicknell’s Thrush (Look for this at Wakely Mountain) and Black-backed Woodpecker.

Other species of birds you can see in the area include Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Nashville Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Blue-headed Vireo.

Some other warbler species observed in the park include the Mourning Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and Canada Warbler—about 29 species of warbler breed in the Adirondacks.

Winter birds to look out for in the area include White-winged Crossbills, Snow Buntings, Song Sparrows, Pine Siskins, and Red-breasted Nuthatches.

  1. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

This is a 9,000-acre area near JFK Airport in Jamaica Bay on Long Island, New York. At least 330 species of birds have been recorded at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. The area is known for its marshes and open water, providing many bird habitats.

Bird species you can find in the refuge include the Tricolored Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Yellow-crowned Night Heron. 

Snow Geese, Brant, Black Skimmers, and American Oystercatchers can also be seen. Hundreds of Snow Geese can be seen in winter in the area. Stilt Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Dunlins are among the many shorebirds recorded in the refuge.

Short-eared and Barn Owls are found in the refuge where they nest. American Woodcock can be located near the visitor’s center. They also perform their courtship in spring. 

Some platforms have been constructed in the water, providing nesting places for Osprey. Jamaica Bay is an excellent place for birding; rare birds like the Snow Bunting have even been seen here.

  1. Derby Hill Bird Observatory

This is a hawk-watching site situated on a hill on the shores of Lake Ontario. The area is best visited between early March and late May when numerous raptors can be observed.

The most commonly seen bird in the area is the Broad-winged Hawk, thousands of which are often seen flying past the hill during peak migration.

Rough-legged Hawks, Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, and Northern Goshawks can also be seen during migration. However, many other bird species can be seen, and you can use the checklist of 299 species for this site when you make your trip here.

The woods often attract a variety of species like Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Red-eyed Vireos, Magnolia Warblers, American Redstarts, Brown Creepers, and more.

Several waterfowl and gulls have also been recorded in the area. You can see birds like Buffleheads, American Black Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, American Wigeons, Red-throated Loons, Surf Scoters, Common Goldeneyes, Lesser Scaup, and Greater Scaup. Swans and geese have also been observed in the waters and fields here.

  1. Jones Beach State Park

This park is situated on a Long Island barrier island, known as an excellent bird watching site. One of the best times to visit this park is in winter, when you can see some waterfowl such as the Harlequin Duck, Brant, and Common Eider. It would be best to watch for Red-throated Loons and Northern Gannets.

Other birds to look for at this state park include the following species: Least Terns, Piping Plovers, and American Oystercatchers. The park does provide an important nesting spot for the terns, plovers, and oystercatchers.

Many bird watchers visit the western side and have the most success in September and October when looking for migrants.

  1. Montauk Point State Park

Montauk Point State Park is on the eastern side of Long Island. Although it can be freezing in winter, this is the best time to visit if you want to see lots of seabirds. You can find many species, including Razorbills, Long-tailed Ducks, Brants, and Common Eiders.

You are also likely to see Surf Scoter and Black Scoter. Northern Gannets, Red-throated Loons, and Great Cormorants can also be seen.

Less commonly, birders have spotted Common Murres and Dovekies. Gulls seen here include Iceland Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and even Black-legged Kittiwakes.

  1. Central Park

For bird enthusiasts, Central Park is likely the best reason to visit New York City. This park is 834 acres and is literally inside New York City. The park is particularly good in spring and fall migration when birds stop to rest and feed.

The wooded section known as the Ramble is the most popular with birders. The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is also suitable for seeing waterfowl. 

There is a bird species checklist available for Central Park that you can use. Some of the raptors spotted in the park include Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks, and Northern Goshawks.

Other bird species found here include Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Bank Swallow, Tree Swallow, Rusty Blackbird, Bobolink, and Northern Shrike.

Many warbler species have been sighted in the park. These birds are most often present during migration. A few of the warblers recorded here include Canada Warblers, Blackpoll Warblers, Palm Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, Cerulean Warblers, and Blue-winged Warblers. 

Louisiana Waterthrushes and Ovenbirds are also often recorded in this park. Several vireos have been found in the park, such as Red-eyed, Blue-headed, and Philadelphia Vireos.

  1. Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is on the Atlantic flyway and attracts many birds yearly. It is located in the central part of the state and on the north side of Cayuga Lake. There is a 3.5-mile drive you can go on and look for birds simultaneously.

The refuge has walking trails, observation platforms, and a visitor center. There are wetlands here that attract thousands of birds. Virginia Rail and Sora can be spotted in the marshy vegetation. 

Some species that nest in the refuge include Sandhill Cranes, Least Bitterns, Black-crowned Night-Herons, and American Bitterns. Osprey and Bald Eagles also breed in the refuge. 

  1. Marshlands Conservancy

This is a 147-acre area that also includes some of Long Island’s shoreline (half a mile). Besides the shore, there are salt marshes, woodlands, open fields, and ponds. The variety of habitats means many birds can be seen in this conservancy.

Birds found here include nesting Ospreys, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, and Black-crowned Night-Herons. Small passerines can also be seen in the refuge, including Chestnut-sided Warblers and Blue-winged Warblers. 

Bird species such as Willow Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, American Woodcock, Scarlet Tanager, and Orchard Oriole have been recorded in the area.

  1. Niagara Falls State Park

Niagara Falls State Park is known as the place to be if you want to see a lot of gulls. Unfortunately, to see the gulls, you must visit in winter when it is freezing, so you should be prepared for this and dress accordingly.

The gulls you can see here include Black-legged Kittiwake, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, and Slaty-backed Gull. Besides gulls, you can see many other birds by walking along the various hiking trails in the park.

  1. Tifft Nature Preserve 

This preserve in Buffalo is 264 acres in size, and it has specifically been restored for wildlife and bird conservation. There are trails and boardwalks you can walk along while looking for birds. 

There are woodlands, marshlands, and ponds, which attract various birds to this preserve. You can find various shorebirds in the preserve and marsh-loving species like the Virginia Rail, Swamp Sparrow, and Marsh Wren. 

Least Bitterns also occur in the marshes but may be difficult to see due to their cryptic colors and markings. Wood Ducks and Pied-billed Grebes nest in the refuge, as do Osprey.

  1. Bashakill Wildlife Management Area

This is a 3,107-acre area that is mainly comprised of marshes. It is located in the southeastern part of New York State near Wurtsboro. Greater than 230 bird species have been noted in the area, making this refuge worth a visit.

There are many trails and places where you can park when you visit. The birds that breed in this conservation area include the following species: Bald Eagle, Black-billed Cuckoo, and Barred Owl. 

Passerines to look out for, and that nest here include Acadian Flycatchers, Alder Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Vireos, and many warblers.

Warblers in the area include Golden-winged Warblers, Cerulean Warblers, Worm-eating Warblers, and Chestnut-sided Warblers. You should also be able to spot American Bitterns, Wood Ducks, Osprey, and Least Bitterns near or in the wetlands.

Best Time to Bird Watch in New York

You can find birds any time of the year in New York, but there are some seasons when you are more likely to observe certain species or types of birds.

TYPES OF BIRDSSEASON
ShorebirdsMay to August
Snow GeeseWinter
Best Time to Bird Watch in New York

The New York State Bird

Eastern Bluebird - New York State Bird
Eastern Bluebird – New York State Bird

The Eastern Bluebird is designated as the New York State Bird. It is a bird that is easy to identify and usually relatively easy to see when present in an area. These birds like to nest in cavities in trees or nest boxes. They are relatively common and occur on the eastern side of the country. 

Bluebird males are blue on the back with rusty orange underneath. The females are more gray-blue on top and have orange underparts. Both sexes have white under the tail.  

Bird Watching Laws in New York

You are not allowed to interfere with or destroy any nest or eggs of any wild bird, even if the nest is not occupied. Wild birds are protected in the state.

My Favourite Equipment for Bird Watching

Bird watching is one of the least expensive hobbies out there, but you still need some equipment to get the most out of it. 

The essential equipment to start bird watching is a pair of binoculars. My preference is 8 X 42 binoculars. The number 8 is how much the magnification is, while 42 is the field of view in millimeters of the lenses.

A pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars on Amazon is an excellent choice for both beginners and experts. 

In time, you can choose more expensive models and also opt to buy a spotting scope like the Celestron Ultima 80 on Amazon.

These are a lot more expensive compared with binoculars though, so if you are only a beginner, start with binoculars first. A spotting scope is only helpful for birds far away, such as out on a pond or seashore.

Bird Watching Ethics

There are a few rules or guidelines you should abide by as an ethical birder. These are listed below.

  • Do not enter private lands without prior permission from landowners.
  • Follow all the rules in refuges and reserves, including cleaning up any garbage from your campsite.
  • Do not disturb birds on nests.
  • Do not use apps and play songs to call up birds when they are hungry, tired, and breeding during spring and summer.

Conclusion

New York is exciting for birders because even in highly urbanized areas like New York City, you can find many birds in Central Park.

There are also good spots in the central areas of the state and on Long Island. New York is a worthwhile state to visit for a bird watcher because there are many bird watching spots with exciting birds to see.

TIP: If you want to check out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Rae Osborn

Rae Osborn is an avid bird watcher and holds a doctorate in Biology. Her interests in birds began as a child growing up in South Africa. She has continued to study birds and has bird watched in the United States and South Africa.

Recent Posts