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What’s in Flight
Spring/Summer 2024

Yellow Warbler bathing by Brad Balliett

Carl Schurz Park is setting new records in biodiversity.  Recently we bagged a super big first. Not only a first for Manhattan, but for all of New York State.  The American Museum of Natural History spotted a resin bee, Megachile Exilis Parexilis, the first recorded in New York State, buzzing around in our park.  ‘It is really great to add this bee to our species list in New York, and to learn more about its geographic range. The species diversity we're seeing in Carl Schurz is pretty amazing for how small the park is,’ says an ecstatic Sarah Kornbluth, the Field Associate at the American Museum of Natural History, who led the recent bee survey for our park. 

2 Carl Schurz Park's Megachile Exilis Parexilis bee in the American Museum of Natural Hist

A New York first - Carl Schurz Park’s Megachile Exilis Parexilis bee in its new home, the American Museum of Natural History Collection.

We are also increasing our bird diversity. 155 different bird species have now been observed in the park (five more than this time last year).  To give you some idea of context that is more birds than have been spotted in either Bryant Park or Washington Square Park, and more than half the species found in Central Park. 

Cedar Waxwing feeding on Amelanchier Canadensis by Brad Balliett

Among the bird newbies spotted in our park this spring was a White-eyed  Vireo, a tiny migrating songbird with yellow spectacles around its white eyes. Another newbie for our park is the Killdeer. This dainty shorebird, notable for two black rings around its neck, always causes a stir among birders when it’s spotted in Manhattan.  

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White-eyed Vireo by Jay Zemann

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Killdeer by Brian Garrett

We’ve also got many new birders, reporting their findings to Cornell Lab’s eBird (a global database of bird sightings). Check us out, we are a ‘global hotspot’ ( To date, 430 birders have reported their sightings! In March, this beautiful Bald Eagle, with its signature white head and massive 6’6’ wing span was spotted swooping over the park by Ryan Serio.

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Bald Eagle by Ryan Serio 

Our regular birders like Jay Zemann are capturing some stunning photos, like this huge Red-tailed hawk sitting atop the Peter Pan statue, near the East 87th street entrance . ‘It was using the statue as a perch to hunt for pigeons,’ says Jay.

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Red-tailed Hawk by Jay Zemann

Bay-breasted Warbler by Brad Balliett

April and May are the most exhilarating months in the park for birders. The tree canopy is alive with colorful tiny migrants from the southern states, the Caribbean, Central and Southern America. Most of these birds like this Bay-breasted Warbler, are travelers en route to their breeding grounds as high up as the Boreal forests that ring the Arctic Circle. 

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Red Admiral butterfly by Deborah E. Bifulco

‘One of the truly great sights this spring was the explosion of Red Admiral butterflies travelling up the East Coast.  Most everyone has heard of the Monarch butterfly’s epic migration, but the Red Admirals also travel huge distances. Some fly a thousand or more miles from the Southern states, Mexico and Central America,’ says Jason Dombroskie, Manager of the Insect Collection at Cornell University. ‘This Spring, they pushed through in numbers we’ve not seen in years. They lay their eggs on nettles and Elms, so their larva can eat the leaves.’

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly by Jeffrey B. Evans

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Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly by Lucie Young

This June, there has also been an abundance of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies in New York. There are over 550 species of Swallowtails, which includes the largest butterflies in the world. In India they grow up to five and a half inches in wingspan. In our park, they have a three and a half inch wingspan and striking markings.  Stripey black and yellows for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and an iridescent blue band and yellow spots on the black hindwings of the female Eastern Black Swallowtail.

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Big Dipper Firefly by Radim Schrieber

One of the most magical park moments is in late June/early July when courting fireflies (little bioluminescent flying beetles) start to appear after dark. The males flashing lanterns are intended to attract a mate.  You won’t see many flashing lanterns on the boardwalk along the river.  ‘Fireflies don’t like bright lights. Light pollution is one of several reasons for their decline,’ says Candace Fallon, a senior conservation biologist at the Xerces Society. Like courting lovers, fireflies prefer the darker recesses in the park – especially the lawns, walkways and bushes between 86th and 89th street around Gracie Mansion. One of the most common in Carl Schurz is nicknamed ‘the Big Dipper’ (Photinus Pyralis, or Common Eastern Firefly) because the males do a J-shaped dance while flashing their lanterns.

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Green Sweat Bee by Gerald Carter

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Bi-colored Sweat Bee by Julio Shapiro

Look out in mid-summer for unusually colored striped sweat bees and green sweat bees. According to Sarah Kornbluth from the American Museum of Natural History, they can be spotted in the gardens dotting the water-side Esplanade, especially at the south end of the park.  


From April to September, you can hear the healthy buzz of 43 different bee species in our park.  ‘I guessed we’d find around 25-30 bee species when we did our survey, but we found 43 species.  It is a real testament to how good the gardening is in the park,’ says Sarah Kornbluth. 

16 Rough-winged Swallows by Jay Zemann.jpeg
15 Rough-winged Swallow feeding fledgling by Jay Zemann.jpeg

A rough-winged Swallow mother (smaller bird) feeds her baby by Jay Zemann

Rough-winged Swallows have been nesting in Carl Schurz Park and can be seen near the ferry terminal feeding their offspring. 

Words: Lucie Young


Brad Balliett – X (formerly Twitter) @BalliettBrad

Jay Zemann - Instagram @josephzemann

Deborah E. Bifulco, Gerald Carter, Jeffrey B. Evans, Brian Garrett, Sarah Kornbluth, Radim Schrieber, Ryan Serio and Lucie Young

Links: is a free website, created by the Cornell Lab, where you can explore and submit bird sightings for global hot spots such as Carl Schurz Park 


Check out our previous edition of What's in Flight


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