From passers-by to permanent residents: Birds of the Greenbelt

Little Blue Heron

A Little Blue Heron seeks a snack along the water’s edge in the Staten Island Greenbelt. These migratory birds range from Canada to Uruguay.

By Cliff Hagen

Each year thousands of birds travel through our Greenbelt as they make the round-trip journey from the northern woodlands of New England to all points south. And each year those thousands of birds find our Greenbelt a safe respite, a fruitful woodland along the Atlantic flyway to rest and refuel.

The bi-annual fanfare of bird migration is on full display each Spring and Fall. At locations throughout the Greenbelt, from Pump House Pond in High Rock Park to the Hessian Spring along Old Mill Road, a colorful collection of wood warblers and neotropical migrants will show themselves to the patient hiker. A brief, quiet walk will yield dozens of birds, a frenetic display and cacophony of song. The Spring migration through our Greenbelt is a wonder of the natural world.

Just as wonderful, though short on song, is the southbound migration of autumnal birds. Having expended so much energy flying north, building nests and raising young, the southbound birds fill the trees with the hushed hues of Fall. Like the leaves above, the birds fall quietly south to replenish for the following year’s adventures.

While so many birds traverse the Greenbelt during their miraculous journey, a number of those tested travelers take advantage of our Greenbelt to fledge young.

Baltimore Orioles and Great Crested Flycatchers, Cuckoos and Peewees, Wood Thrush and Bunting are just a few of the dozens of species that enjoy the comforts of the Greenbelt during the summer nesting period. Towhees and Catbirds, Wood Ducks and Thrashers travel hundreds of miles to build nests and raise young in the healthy woodlands of our Greenbelt. This botanical garden hosts a wide variety of trees and grasses, bushes and flowers allowing many species of birds to find an ecological niche in which to succeed.

The most successful birds, the resident species found each day of the year, flourish in our Greenbelt. The ubiquitous Blue Jays, the Cardinals and Doves, the ever-busy Chickadees are the more common species that call the Greenbelt home throughout the year. The woodpeckers and owls, the Titmice and Nuthatch ply the brambles and boughs during the hottest days of summer and the coldest, deep frozen nights of winter. No matter the weather, these local heros of the the wood find provision, seek shelter and live a bountiful life in our Greenbelt.