Oh the birds I saw Saturday on the cold and clear December morning.  The sun was out along with the hordes of tourists that clogged the paths in the south of the park but the three American Crows and several Blue Jays standing sentinel seemed more concerned about an accipitor than the humans on paths below.  American Robins and Cedar Waxwings similarly ignored the tourist hordes, as did House Sparrows that were going with the “trash bird” appellation.

Cedar Waxwings in Central Park

House Sparrow “trash birds”

I escaped into the relative peace and quiet of the Ramble which led me to the feeders where hordes of birds awaited.  White-throated Sparrows, juncos, goldfinch, House Finch, White-breasted Nuthatches, Blue Jays, Downy Woodpeckers, titmouse, chickadees and more were there for the bounty.  Also making an appearance at the feeders was Jacob Drucker, a young birder I had once met at Forest Park, who managed to pull two Pine Siskins from the sweet gum tree that towers over the back end of the feeder area.  That was pretty much the best we expected and we were both interested in finding the reported juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker, so off we went to southwest edge of the Great Lawn.

Too easy.  That was the only bad thing about the young acorn-eater.  As soon as we hit the area north of the bathrooms by the Delacorte Theater our quarry flew in front of us to a tree with a chunk of acorn in its bill.  Though the bird lacks the red head that the adults are named for it is still a striking bird, and a joy to add to my Anti-Global Warming Big Year list.  We watched the bird fly back and forth from the ground under an oak tree for bits of acorn to another tree where it cached them several times.  Oh, and I got pictures.

Seeing as it is still a juvenile and lacking a red head it didn’t feel right to call the bird a sexy redhead, but, nonetheless, it is a heck of a good bird for Central Park (and, according to the local listservs, there are now two juveniles in the park!).

After we had enough of the woodpecker Jacob and I moved on, searching the Pinetum for owls and not finding any, and then on to the reservoir and the pool to see what waterfowl we could find.  We found plenty!

drake Hooded Mergansers

female Wood Duck

guess this bird’s identity in the comments

In addition to the birds pictured above we also tracked down Gadwall, Pied-billed Grebes, Mute Swans, American Black Ducks, Canada Geese, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Ruddy Ducks, and Buffleheads.  Sparrows were everywhere too, with White-throated Sparrows dominating, though we did see a single Swamp Sparrow, several Song Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos.  I was more than willing to take my time taking some shots of the White-throated Sparrows foraging within feet.

All in all it was a very enjoyable morning in the park.  Seeing fifty species in three and a half hours in the middle of December in New York is a great way to spend a morning and I highly recommend it!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.