Wetlands and birds are inextricably linked. According to the National Audubon Society, up to one-half of North American bird species nest, feed, or rest in wetlands. With the destruction of wetlands, bird populations have slowly declined. Between 1978 and 1987, seventy-five percent of forest-dwelling neotropical migrants, many of which rely on coastal wetland habitats during their arduous migrations, declined in numbers.
Importance of Wetlands to Birds
During the long-distance migrations between their temperate breeding grounds and tropical wintering grounds, birds must periodically stop to rest and replenish depleted energy stores. Habitats that provide abundant food sources and allow birds to rapidly store energy in the form of fat before the next step of their journey are vital for successful migrations.
If you are a bird watcher along the Bronx River you can expect to see several species of warblers, including common yellowthroats, yellow- rumped warblers, American redstarts, blue-winged warblers and ovenbirds. Orioles can be heard singing in the tree tops. Many species of sparrows inhabit these areas, the most abundant being the non-native English house sparrow, song sparrows, and occasional visits by swamp sparrows.Other common birds species along the river include: red-winged black birds, tufted titmice, catbirds, mourning doves, European starlings, common grackles, and birds of prey such as red-tailed hawks.
NRG staff also measured breeding birds in Bronx River Forest in 2003 and 2005 for the Bond Act Project. For additional information please see the Bronx Forest Bond Act floodplain restoration page or download the post Bronx River Forest Bond Act 2007 Project report.
Comprehensive data on Bronx River bird populations do not yet exist. The following characterization is based on the few localized studies that have taken place and on general observations and species lists kept by active birders.
Although river corridors can provide a diverse array of habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds, the current bird community along the Bronx River is representative of an urbanized system. An NRG survey in the Bronx River Forest from May to July 2003 suggested that the resident bird community is representative of a disturbed ecosystem, unsurprising considering the predominance of edge habitat, lack of diverse native understory and lack of a mature tree canopy (Pehek, 2005). The resident community is dominated by a few generalist species that are common in urban and suburban scrub habitats, most notably the gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) and the American robin (Turdus migratorius).
More than 80 species have been observed along the Bronx River corridor, but this is lower than is found in similar, less-developed riparian areas.The avian community is dominated by generalist species; forest interior species and species that are sensitive to habitat degradation are rare. Still, New York City’s parks in general, and Bronx Park in particular, play an important role as a stopover habitat for neotropical migrants passing through on their way to northern breeding grounds or southern wintering grounds. Results from the New York Bird Monitoring Program, suggest that Bronx Park is indeed an area where neotropical migrant passerines can adequately restore depleted energy reserves, both in fall and spring and whether they are mainly frugivorous or insectivorous (Seewagen, 2005).
Lastly, the Estuary Section provides an important congregation area for winter waterfowl in the region. Rafts of ducks observed here include the canvasback (Aythya valisineria), ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), and scaup (Aythya marila) (Feller, 2005). Shorebirds such as the great blue heron (Ardea Herodias), snowy egret (Egretta thula), great egret (Ardea alba), and ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) are common sights in the estuary.