The Book


View A Big Manhattan Year (paperback) here. 

View the Kindle edition here.

“Fast-paced, informative, engaging, and gracefully-written, A Big Manhattan Year delivers an entertaining tale of birding obsession.” — Jeffrey Kimball, Producer/Director, Birders: The Central Park Effect

“Barrett turns birding into an extreme sport, with all of Manhattan its playing field. A page-turner filled with strategy, action, and one-upmanship, A Big Manhattan Year was fun to read.” — Alice Deutsch

“A Big Manhattan Year will inspire you to pull out your binoculars as it takes you on a suspenseful, year-long quest to find the borough’s rarest birds.” — Helen Hays, Director, Great Gull Island Project

What is it like to spend nearly every day for a year trying to observe as many bird species as possible within the confines of Manhattan? In 2012 I did just that — it’s called having a “big year” — and I was not the only one. In this book I tell how I learned birding and how I went on to become a competitive birder. Then I give a detailed account of my 2012 battle with one of the nation’s best, ornithologist Andrew Farnsworth, and others to have the biggest of big Manhattan years.

You may be surprised to learn that each year over 200 species of birds reside in or migrate through Manhattan. Observing and accurately identifying them poses many challenges. You need to know what they look like, what they sound like, and where and when they are likely to appear. Birding can be a leisurely walk in the park, or it can be something much more demanding. Manhattan is home to a number of talented and obsessive birders for whom birding is a test of brains, logistics, and physical stamina, requiring both an understanding of nature and a knack for technology.

Those new to birding will learn along with me as I begin by exploring one of the world’s premier birding locations, the Central Park Ramble. As my own knowledge and experience grow, I introduce the reader to a series of beautiful and rare birds to be found not only in Central Park but also in the many excellent but less well-known parks of Manhattan. Journey with me from the waters of New York Harbor, where Red-breasted Mergansers and Horned Grebes swim, to the top of Inwood Hill Park, where Black Vultures and Great Horned Owls fly.