Birds of Central Park
The Audubon Society found 5,721 birds in Central Park in their 113th annual Christmas Bird Count. Follow this board for updates on the species found this year.
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Pictured here is a male Ruddy Duck. The females of the species have grey-brown bodies with a greyish faces with a darker bills, caps and cheek stripes. A member of the tribe of "stiff-tailed ducks," the Ruddy Duck has a spiky tail that it often holds straight up in display. Fifty-Five Ruddy Ducks were found in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
Though from a distance, Double-crested Cormorants seems dark and drab, they are actually quite colorful up-close with orange-yellow skin on their face and throat, striking aquamarine jewel-like eyes, and a mouth that is bright blue inside. Two Double-crested Cormorants were found in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
Female Sharp-shinned Hawks are about a third bigger and heavier than males. This is common for hawks and owls, but otherwise uncommon amongst birds. The difference in size between the sexes reflects in the size of their prey. Nestlings feed first on small prey captured by the father, before moving on to the larger prey caught by the mother. One Sharp-shinned Hawk was found in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
Hatched in 1990, Pale Male is the most famous of Central Park's Red-tailed Hawks. Having made his home at 927 Fifth Avenue, he is one of the first Red-tailed Hawks known to have nested on a building rather than in a tree and is famous for his legacy of urban dwelling descendants. Eleven Red-tailed Hawks were identified in this year's Central Park Bird Count. New York Daily Photo
American Coots swim like ducks, but they do not have the webbed feet of that species. Their toes have broad lobes of skin that allow it to easily move through water. The lobes fold back when the bird lifts its foot while walking to facilitate moving on dry land, but it still supports the bird's weight on muddy land. Nine American Coots were found in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
The Great Black-backed Gull has plumage that evolves through the seasons and as it ages. The largest gull in the world, its feathers were used for the fashions in the 1800s. Populations increased and their presence spread further south after the collapse of the feather trade in the early 1900s. Fifty-one were found i Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
Common in cities and towns, Rock Pigeons are generally blue-gray with two dark wingbars. Darwin kept pigeons for years, and his observations on the variety of breeds, and the huge differences between captive breeds and wild pigeons, helped him formulate some aspects of his theory of evolution. There were 402 Rock Pigeons in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
During breeding season it is common to see Mourning Doves flying in tight formations of three. The first is the male of the mated pair, the second the unmated male chasing his rival, and the third the mated female. They are the most frequently hunted species in North America, with hunters harvesting more than 20 million per year. Yet with roughly 350 million, they remain one of the most abundant. Thirty-nine were found in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers can stick their tongues out nearly 2 inches past the end of their beaks. The tip is barbed, like that of a cat, and the bird’s spit is sticky, enabling it to pull nurishment from deep crevices. Males have longer, wider-tipped tongues than females, possibly so that a breeding pair can hunt for prey in different micro-environments within the same macro-environment. Sixty Bed-bellied Woodpeckers were found in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
Both sexes of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker have red foreheads, only males also have red throats. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males. Twelve were found in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
Similar to Hairy Woodpeckers, only male Downy Woodpeckers have a flash of red at the back of their heads. Woodpeckers don’t sing, but they drum loudly against pieces of wood or metal to achieve the same effect. This isn't part of the birds’ feeding habits. Feeding birds make surprisingly little noise even when they’re digging vigorously into wood. Twenty-nine Downy Woodpeckers were found in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
The flash of red on the head indicates that this is a male Hairy Woodpecker. Similar in appearance to the Downy Woodpecker, the Hairy Woodpecker has a much longer bill. Hairy and Downy woodpeckers are found together throughout most of their ranges. The Downy Woodpecker uses smaller branches while the Hairy Woodpecker tends to spend more time on trunks. Three were found in this year's Central Park Bird Count.
Like other woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker generally nests in holes in trees. The undersides of their wings and tail feathers are bright yellow on eastern birds, or red in western birds. These had been considered two different species. They hybridize in an area from Alaska to the panhandle of Texas. Eight were found in this year's Central Park Bird Count.
American Crows don't breed until they are at least two years old, but usually four or more. In most populations older offspring help their parents raise younger ones for a few years. Families sometimes include up to fifteen individuals, including young from five different years. Thirty-four American Crows were found in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.
Most find these birds endearing due to their oversized heads, small bodies and interest in humans. Each autumn Black-capped Chickadees have dying brain neurons containing information that is no longer essential replaced by new ones so they can adapt to changes in their social flocks and environment despite their tiny brains. There were 53 found in this year's Central Park Bird Count.
White Breasted-nuthatches often forage sideways and upside down on vertical surfaces. They get their name from their trick of forcing large nuts and acorns beneath tree bark and then hammering them with their sharp bills to "hatch" out the nut from its shell. Sixty-two were found in this year's Central Park Bird Count.
Brown Creepers can be tough little birds to spot since they blend with tree bark and are almost always found on a tree trunk walking upward looking for food. After they get high enough on the trunk, they'll fly down to the base of the tree (or another tree) and repeat this hunting process. Three were found in Central Park in this year's Bird Count.