Eastern Meadowlark, Randall’s Island

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) (Photo credit: Larry Meade)

I mentioned the Eastern Meadowlark several times in my book. Though not a rare bird in general, it is extremely hard to find in Manhattan, and is not reported in Central Park every year. It is more regular in Queens and Brooklyn, though still an uncommon bird worth reporting anywhere in New York City.

I ran many miles over the North End of Central Park and over Randall’s Island in 2012, during my big year, trying to observe this bird. I even visited Inwood Hill Park in search of it.

Recent reports of it in Queens suggested that a visit to nearby Randall’s Island was in order. It has been reported before on Randall’s Island and along the East River in Manhattan. Randall’s Island ought to be tremendously appealing to Eastern Meadowlarks, as it is filled with acres of mostly-unused grassy baseball and soccer fields.

I ran across the 103rd Street pedestrian bridge and began birding the south end of the island at 10:50 a.m. I saw many kinglets of both species there, but nothing unusual.

After two hours I had made my way to the northern shore just east of the pedestrian bridge to the Bronx when I flushed a large yellow-breasted bird out of thick grass and into nearby trees. It was my life Manhattan Eastern Meadowlark. It did not want me anywhere near it, and for five minutes I observed it perching atop the shoreline trees and flying from tree to tree. Then I lost sight of it, and was not able to re-find it again.

It became my 190th species of the year and my 228th lifetime in Manhattan.

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