Rare Bird Takes Up Residency in Prospect Park

Painted Bunting has been spotted in Brooklyn!

Original story by NY1, by Roger Clark 
December 7, 2015 

An out-of-town visitor is causing a big sensation in Brooklyn. People have been flocking to Prospect Park hoping to catch a glimpse - a tiny songbird not seen here in nearly a century. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.

It's a colorful bird that fits in well in a borough as diverse as Brooklyn. But it doesn't really belong here. Or in New York City, for that matter.

"It hasn't been here for almost 90 years," said Averill Wickland, supervising educator with the Prospect Park Alliance. "We only have one right now."

It's a male painted bunting. It was first spotted here at Prospect Park a week ago. Since then, birders with binoculars and cameras have been trekking to the park, hoping to see this colorful visitor for themselves.

"It’s one of the gaudiest birds in the world, quite frankly," said one bird-watcher.

Painted buntings usually summer in the southern Plains, then head for Florida or Central America in September. For some reason, this guy detoured from the migration path and wound up here, on the roof of the Lefrak Center at Lakeside skating rinks, where there is plenty to eat.

"We wanted to plant species of plants that were really beneficial to the wildlife," said Christian Zimmerman, director of landscape management with the Prospect Park Alliance. "We are near the water, so with water and food source will bring more birds."

"So we've mostly been seeing it low down," Wickland siad.

Since my knowledge of birds doesn't extend far beyond the ones sports teams are named for, Wickland gave me a crash course in bird-watching. To earn my wings, though, I needed to spot a member of the cardinal family.

Finally a glimpse of the little guy. Excitement for birders and non birders alike. And with milder temperatures here, he could be hanging around for awhile. 

People in the park on Monday had some suggestions for what the songbird should do while in Brooklyn. "The Park Slope Food Co-Op," one woman said with a laugh. "Eat some good organic food."

If you are not lucky enough to catch the painted bunting at Prospect Park, there are plenty of other birds. In fact, 287 species have been spotted here just this year.

For more information on all of the bird-watching and nature programs, head to