The High Line’s plantings are not only beautiful – they provide a year-round oasis for both local and migratory birds. From wooded areas that are good for nesting, to dried seed heads left intact over the winter that offer a source of food during the cold season, the High Line is a natural habitat for urban birds.
In this series of blog posts, we’ll be joined by High Line Gardener and resident naturalist Maryanne Stubbs, for a closer look at the birds you’ll find at the High Line.
Learn more about the High Line’s year-long winged residents after the jump.
“All of the birds you see give new meaning to the High line being a ‘park in the sky,’” says Maryanne Stubbs, High Line Gardener and resident naturalist. “Falcons can be seen quite regularly as they hunt the skies for their main source of food: other birds. Barn swallows can also be seen flying low over the High Line as they eat insects on the wing.”
Maryanne has had a lifelong interest in watching birds. She has been a volunteer educator for Audubon’s “For the Birds” program as well as an educator for Wildlab. At the High Line, you can join Maryanne for a new series of early morning Wild High Line Tours, which give you an insider’s perspective at all of the wildlife you find throughout the park.
Today we take a closer look at the birds you’ll regularly find at the High Line.
The American kestrel, Falco sparverius, is a small falcon common in North America. This agile hunter feeds on insects, mice, and song birds. At the High Line, you’re likely to see it flying overhead, often in the skies between West 28th and West 30th Streets.
Photo by Greg Hume, via Wikipedia.
The house sparrow, Passer domesticus, is a common bird throughout the world. They feed mostly on the seeds of grains and weeds, as well as small insects. You’ll find house sparrows in all areas of the High Line, collecting dried seeds during the winter and chasing winged insects during the summer.
Photo by Addie Métivier.
The mourning dove, Zenaida macroura, is one of the most abundant and widespread birds in the North America. Like the house sparrow, you’ll find mourning doves where there are seeds. The birds can sometimes be easy to miss because of their muted color, but their distinctive “sobbing” call is very recognizable.
Photo by Oliver Rich.
The northern mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, is known for its ability to mimic other birds’ calls – if you’re lucky you might also catch this bird mimicking city sounds like a car alarm. This bird eats a diet of fruit, insects, and seeds. These food sources are plentiful at the High Line all year long, so you will see these birds hanging around in all seasons.
Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
Look up! You’re not likely to see peregrine falcons, Falco peregrines, on the ground in the park – a resident pair of these crow-sized birds of prey survey from a neighboring building at West 17th Street, or from the air. Generally hunting at dawn or dusk, they swoop down to catch their prey – small songbirds or even pigeons – before flying off with their meal. Falcons are the fastest fliers in the bird kingdom with exceptional vision.
Photo by Annik La Farge.
Next time you’re in the park, pause a moment to take a closer look for the wildlife that calls the High Line home. Want to learn even more? Join Maryanne on a Wild High Line Tour.