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Birders Flock to Bush Terminal Park for Rare Eurasian Wigeon Sighting

 Bird lovers say Bush Terminal is the new "destination" for birders with dozens of species spotted since it opened late last year.
Bird Watching at Bush Terminal Park
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SUNSET PARK — It looks like Brooklyn’s feathered friends have a new hangout.

Bush Terminal Park is becoming a hot spot for bird watchers as dozens of species, including several types of ducks and rare birds like the snowy owl and the Glaucous gull, have been seen at the park since it opened last November, experts say.

Winter birds and waterfowls alike have been seen regularly at the green space between 44th and 50th streets on the Sunset Park waterfront.

“One of the stars of Bush Terminal Park has been a Eurasian wigeon,” said Robert Bate, president of the Brooklyn Bird Club, referring to a species of duck that’s a rare visitor to the East Coast.

The long-awaited Bush Terminal Park forms a suitable “mixed habitat” for birds due to estuarial salt water from the bay, grassy lands as well as trees and shrubs, Bate said.  

While it’s possible that birds have always migrated to the area, that part of the coastline was virtually inaccessible to community members and bird watchers until the park opened, he added.  

“It’s a destination for birders now,” he said.

In just four cold months from November to March, between 54 and 67 species have been spotted at Bush Terminal Park, according to bird-tracking site eBird. This includes buffleheads, the American wigeon, the Ring-billed gull, the Rough-legged hawk and the American kestrel.

One reason that waterfowl are turning Bush Terminal into winter homes could be because of protective coves along the coastline that shelter the birds against strong winds and waves.

“The park offers many closed off calm water spots with the former broken down piers and new park structures acting as barricades and safe spots from rough weather,” Brooklyn Bird Club's former president Peter Dorosh, who recently led birders through the park, noted in an email.

Winter in New York is also a particularly good time to spot different species of ducks because they migrate from the far north to the “balmy south” near the city, said Tod Winston of New York City Audubon Society.  

For bird enthusiasts who want to get a glimpse of Bush Terminal’s bird population, Winston recommends visiting the park during early mornings or late afternoons in the springtime.

During winter, the time of day does not matter as much but light will probably be best in the morning, he added.  

Environmental activist Bart Chezar is also hoping that ospreys, a North American raptor, will nest on a platform for the birds that was installed last summer as a part of the New York Harbor Osprey Initiative, he said.

Ospreys commonly nest near bodies of water and feast on a diet of live fish, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

While it’s hard to predict what species will migrate to the park in the coming year, Bush Terminal will most likely see a new population of birds in the warmer months — possibly sparrows, warblers and other kinds of songbirds, Bate and Dorosh said.

“Bush Terminal Park has achieved heighten status as a birder’s dream spot,” Dorosh said.