by Joyce Hyon
Morningside Gardens is a cooperative housing complex opened in 1957, with six buildings situated on approximately 8 acres of land. As the name implies, there is a profusion of greenery here, enticing to both people and birds. The open spaces have been planted with trees, mostly non-native and ornamental, shrubbery and flower gardens. Native tree species consist of Honey Locust and Pin Oak. Riverside Park lies two blocks to the west and Morningside Park one block to the east. The complex is bordered by Broadway on the west, Amsterdam Avenue on the east, 123rd Street on the south and La Salle Street on the north. The landscape is sloped downhill from south to north. The area between the two southernmost buildings on 123rd Street is the largest open space, planted, and with some benches and paths as well as with a short rocky retaining wall. Correspondingly, the upper path between these two buildings is the most productive for birds. Enter the path from 123rd Street east of Broadway, the uphill side, or from the downhill side near Amsterdam. The lawn along 123rd Street is mostly fenced and off limits to visitors.
Migrant birds of spring and fall appear every year in Morningside Gardens, joining all the common year-round birds of the city also found here. In 2012, I observed 13 species of warblers, Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, Wood Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Eastern Towhee, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, both kinglets, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches. Raptors were Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon and Sharp-shinned Hawk. Woodpeckers were Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.
Over a period of more than 20 years, there have been over 85 bird species, both migrant and non-migrant, in Morningside Gardens. Highlights have been Hooded, Pine, Tennessee and Nashville Warblers, Alder Flycatcher, Fox Sparrow, Wild Turkey and Ring-necked Pheasant.
Nesting birds have been American Crow, Northern Mockingbird, American Robin, House Finch, House Sparrow, European Starling and Northern Cardinal.
Morningside Gardens has its own security force, keeping the grounds safe. As in any part of the city, visitors should always be alert and aware when in the neighborhood. Please be aware that this is private property. Birders should comply with the relevant section of the ABA code of ethics.
Take the number 1 subway train to 125th Street and walk south a block, or the A, B, C or D to 125th Street and walk west to Amsterdam, then one block south. The M4, M11, M60 and M104 buses also stop nearby.