Van Cortlandt Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Van Cortlandt Park Becomes Birdland

Birdland: Hot Birds, Cool Jazz is a new spring event in Van Cortlandt Park capitalizing on the Rangers' monthly Birding Club. On the first Saturday in May, Van Cortlandt Park staff rounded up live birds of prey from Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary, a coop full of live chickens and roosters from Bronx Community Garden, and a jazz band playing birdsongs.

The title of the event coincidentally is the name of a jazz club started by saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker and his club, which was also named Birdland. Other artists assisted children in making bird beak masks and chalk drawings. Some people in the park were attracted to the event from a distance by the jazz music or the crowing of roosters.

The setting for the event was an asphalt field next to Southwest Playground, chosen to avoid the spring mud. It was a good thing too because heavy rains fell for days before the event with sprinkles that morning. When the sun finally shone, clean footing wasn't the only benefit of the asphalt field - chalk artists helped children and their families draw large-scale pictures on the asphalt of birds that frequent the park. Signage for the event was also chalked onto tents and directional posts.

Timed for the end of migration season, the Rangers and the park's wildlife manager offered hourly bird walks with a brand new bird list to check off sitings. Their route took bird enthusiasts with binoculars and bird guides in hand along the old Putnam Railroad and around a freshwater wetland. The bird list cover features a handsome wood duck known to not in all parks, but specifically in Van Cortlandt Park.

Just for kicks, the costumed mascot for the event was a dancing chicken. She also served as the finish line umpire for races where thrill seekers young and old donned rubber chicken feet and hats racing around the playground. (Some folks will do anything for a gag!) Peacock feathers were used for balancing tricks and another relay race challenged folks to get "Food for the Brood" using tiny straws to transport water the way a momma bird would carry water to its young in the nest. National Audubon displayed stuffed bird skins that anyone could handle for up close investigation and sold birding paraphernalia.

A fun day was had by all and was made possible by the wonderful efforts of the Urban Park Services, Bronx Recreation, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, the Van Cortlandt Park Administrator's Office and generous donations from BP and the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, known for its serious birding curriculum.

Come crow with us next in Spring 2009!

Submitted by Margot Perron


“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Theodore Roosevelt
(1858 – 1919)

Directions to Van Cortlandt Park

Was this information helpful?