YORK CITY HAS MORE BIRDS THAN YOU MIGHT THINK
might be excused for assuming that a book about the wildlife of New
York City would be a tongue-in-cheek guide to Broadway, Time's Square
and other nocturnal entertainment venues in the City That Never Sleeps.
But a new book, "Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York
City" by Leslie Day (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015), reveals
that the city also has a lot of natural wildlife to be enjoyed.
birds one thinks of in association with a fast-paced city are pigeons,
house sparrows and starlings. But more than 475 different bird species
have been recorded from New York State and most have spent some time
in the City. One of the largest natural habitats is Jamaica Bay Wildlife
Refuge in Queens, where 340 species of birds have been documented. The
concentrations of birds in identifiable wooded habitats like Central
Park, where more than 60 different bird species can be seen over the
course of a year, are admirable. This remarkable book is an excellent
resource for the human inhabitants of NYC, introducing them to the ecological
and behavioral details of almost a hundred birds that might be seen
in various neighborhoods.
groups of birds are discussed in an introductory section preceding accounts
of selected species. For example, cardinals, tanagers and grosbeaks
are said to be "abundant in every park and area of the city with
trees." Each account that follows explains when and where a particular
species can be expected to be found within NYC. Most of the material
is applicable wherever someone encounters the species within its geographic
range. How to identify birds by sight and sound, behavior, feeding habits
and ecology is information birdwatchers anywhere will find useful. Nesting
habits and egg descriptions complete the picture of what ornithologists
and amateur birders alike might want to know.
photographs taken by Beth Bergman, photographer for the Metropolitan
Opera, accompany the species accounts. Many show the color patterns
of males and females. Others show young birds in different stages of
development. Some are action shots of birds eating, flying or swimming.
Illustrations of many of the birds and their eggs by nature illustrator
Trudy Smoke further complement the full coverage of everything one needs
to know to appreciate the birds of the area. The eggs are shown in color
and noted as being "life size" or "½ life size."
the abundance and diversity of birds in the Big Apple, threats and hazards
do exist for birds. As noted by the author, "Nearly 90,000 birds
die annually by colliding with city buildings at night." Skyscrapers
and high-flying migrating birds can be a deadly mix--for the birds.
Also, although many birds can be seen in Central Park and similar wildlife
sanctuaries, remember that much of the surrounding urban landscape offers
some birds little choice of where to live or to spend time during a
Leslie Day has done a fine job of shining a spotlight on birds that
can be enjoyed in a city setting. Her book is also a tribute to the
populace of the area, and no doubt to some far-seeing environmentalists,
who have preserved and maintained natural habitat like Central Park
amid the metropolitan sprawl. Every city should cherish its parks and
remaining wild areas not only for the birds but also for all native
about the birds of New York City offers hope for every municipality
in the country. If one of the greatest urban areas in the world can
preserve enough suitable habitat for birds to come and go or even live
there permanently, the same can be true anywhere. Leslie Day's model
of how to write a bird book should be an inspiration for ornithological
enthusiasts everywhere. And maybe someone will eventually write the
"Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of ..." whatever town
or city you live in.
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