Irene May Knock Hundreds of Thousands of Migratory Birds Off Course

Monday, August 29, 2011

(Reprinted from Waterbirds by Theodore Cross (c) Theodore Cross. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.)

The storm that brought the city to a standstill over the weekend with soaking rains and high winds has the potential to disorient hundreds of thousands of birds at the peak of their annual August migration.

Dave Taft, a ranger with the National Park Service, said hurricanes and other large storms can push birds so far off course that they might end up on another continent. The end of August marks the peak of the migration as birds move through New York City north to south along the North Atlantic Flyway.

"That's how we find things like spotted red shanks or rufous-necked stints, things that are say Siberian or are not commonly seen here, but rather in Europe," said Taft, the coordinator for the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. "They may find themselves on a very different coast than they originally were on."

Taft said semi-pomated plovers, sanderlings, and other migratory birds are drawn to Jamaica Bay because it's one of the few wild areas along the Eastern seaboard in the vicinity of a major city.

More than 300 species of birds have been spotted in the city in recent years, including shorebirds — which continue their annual migration into October.


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