Bird perches in Central Park!

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But this sighting, of a Hammond's Flycatcher in the Ramble, is an ornithological near-miracle


  • This Hammond's Flycatcher was spotted in Central Park's Ramble last week, just the third-ever time the species has been sighted in New York State. Although there were concerns the bird would not survive Saturday's snow, it was sighted on Monday. Photo: Anders Peltomaa

  • This Hammond’s Flycatcher, a rare sighting in New York State, landed in Central Park last week. Photo: Felipe Pimentel

Just after the Thanksgiving holiday, a little bird lost its way and ended up in the Big Apple, perched on a tree branch in Central Park's Ramble.

It wasn't just any little bird, but a Hammond's Flycatcher, and its visit to the city, however unintended, was just the third-ever recorded sighting of the species in New York State.

“Most of the birds of these species are in Mexico and Central America at this time,” said Anders Peltomaa, a longtime Manhattan birder and member of the Linnaean Society of New York. “During migration it likely got caught in high altitude winds and got lost, ending up here.”

The first sighting of this particular specimen was reported on November 26. Soon after, a local high school student and avid birder named Ryan Zucker logged the sighting on eBird, a real-time online checklist portal launched 15 years ago by the Cornell Lab of Orinthology and National Audubon Society. The website provides birders access to data sources and basic information on bird abundance and distribution.

Prior to this year's sighting, the only other two recorded sightings of a Hammond's Flycatcher in New York State occurred in Nassau County on October 27, 2001 and in Westchester County on November 19, 2006.

“Hammond's Flycatcher is a very rare visitor to the east,” Peltomaa said. “Hundreds of birders from all over the metro area … traveled to the Ramble to catch a glimpse of the bird. I checked eBird on December 8 and saw that 161 people have made a trip to the Ramble, saw the bird, and reported it. Generally, 40-50 percent of birders will have a sighting, which means at least 300 people have flocked to the Ramble to connect with the bird,” he said. Peltomaa cited a birder from Buffalo who drove 7 hours each way to see the bird. Luckily, that birder was rewarded with a sighting.

Although there were concerns the bird would not survive Saturday's snow, Peltomaa and others saw it again on Monday. Though Hammond's Flycatchers are used to cold weather, sourcing insects is challenging at this time of year, especially in the midst of snow.

Named after William Alexander Hammond, a former surgeon general of the U.S. Army, the Hammond's Flycatcher habitat is more typically in western North America. They breed in mature coniferous forests and subsist on insects.

Hammond collected bird specimens for Spencer Fullerton Baird, who served as the second Secretary of the Smithsonian. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Hammond's Flycatcher's conservation status is classified as “Least Concern.”

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