'Devil Bird' in New York Shows a Shift in Migration Patterns

Climate change is opening new areas to Southern bird species
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2023 3:55 PM CDT
Rare New York Visitor Shows Shift in Migration Patterns
A mother anhinga tends to her babies.   (Lara Cerri/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

A bird known as the anhinga, or "devil bird," rarely seen in New York, has taken up residence around Brooklyn's Prospect Park Lake for the past two weeks, reports the New York Times. This marks the first ever anhinga sighting in Kings County, and only the second in New York City in the last 30 years. The large water bird with a snakelike neck usually calls the Southern US home, ranging from the Gulf Coast to the Carolinas in the summer. The bird's unexpected stay in Brooklyn is the latest in a string of notable birds appearing in places other than their usual migration ranges.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology researcher Andrew Farnsworth tells the Times that the anhinga's presence may signal "an expanding population from the previous typical range of the species in the southeastern United States." Anhingas, Farnsworth adds, are "strong" fliers, "so it's not necessarily a surprise this is happening." The anhinga isn't alone as far as migrating birds not usually found in the Northeast are concerned, either—a birder from Brooklyn tells the Times that other species include yellow-throated warblers, Acadian flycatchers, summer tanagers, and "a number of unusual Western species in Brooklyn, including Townsend's warbler and Swainson's hawk."

Rising temps and shifting weather patterns make it challenging for birds to find food and reproduce. As a result, New York is seeing species from Southern climates like the anhinga come north to adapt to these changes, according to the Audubon Society. The state's diverse habitats, from the Great Lakes' shores to the Adirondacks' forests, offer crucial rest stops and breeding grounds for these migratory birds. But here's a fly in the ointment: The Audubon Society says climate change is messing with these habitats, too. Sea levels along New York's coast have risen 9 inches since 1950 and are projected to increase. This could put both resident and migratory birds—not to mention millions of people—at risk. (More ecology stories.)

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