Call it a warbler rest area.
A group of bird enthusiasts is building an avian haven in Greenpoint’s McGolrick Park so their feathered friends can take breaks and grab snacks during long flights. New York is sorely lacking in such places, a bird lover from the group New York City Audubon said.
“We have so little green space in this city and it is important to maintain it and make it as high-value to citizens and wildlife as possible,” said Kaitlyn Parkins, a research assistant with the organization. “For hundreds of species for birds, there are not enough places for them to stop and rest and refuel.”
Birds flying north in the spring to breed or south during the fall to stay warm experience the expansive concrete sprawl of New York City as a forbidding stretch of aerial highway, with few places for tired and hungry flyers to rest their wings and fill their beaks. The oasis the Audubon fowl-lovers are planning will consist of plants that produce bird food and attract insects. The flora will include serviceberries, milkweed, and goldenrod, and take up an area equivalent to seven Olympic swimming pools.
The group is paying for the rest area with $24,000 awarded out of the millions in Exxon oil money set aside to gussy up the neighborhood as compensation for the massive spill that soaked the neighborhood with three times the amount of oil unleashed in the Exxon Valdez disaster.
New York City Audubon’s science director says the group knows its green patch is a speck in the concrete jungle, but that it is one worth creating nevertheless.
“It is a big step from building a garden in McGolrick Park to saying we are going to increase bird populations, but it is important,” brainiac Susan Elbin said.
Birds do enjoy eating invasive plant species that dominate parks and roadside vegetation patches, but those types are not as nutritious, she said.
“Invasive species are like junk food,” Elbin explained. “It is like eating marshmallows.”
The new sanctuary could lead to a replay of last year, when mockingbirds dive-bombed human park-goers in Transmitter Park. But that cannot be helped, as it would be impossible to attract other species of birds and keep mockingbirds away, Parkins said. Besides, mockingbirds who attack are only trying to protect their young, she said.
“They are not capable of hurting anyone,” Parkins said about mockingbirds. “They are just annoying.”
Audubon will build the garden at the end of June with help from neighborhood volunteers and hopes to see birds start to drop in within the next year.