Pelham Bay Park and Orchard Park Beach
|Description: Pelham Bay Park and Orchard Beach is more than three times larger than Central
Park, making it New York City’s largest park and, arguably, its most ecologically
diverse as well. Nearly 3,000 acres encompass forest, marshland, meadows and
rocky coastline, as well as a mile-long swimming beach. Varied habitats support
a diversity of wildlife throughout the park, making this a real country haven on
the city’s edge.|
Wildlife to Watch: A swamp in the central woodlands is a prime environment for migratory songbirds,
such as common yellowthroats, red-winged blackbirds and gray catbirds.
The 189-acre Hunter Island Forest is one of New York City’s best owl haunts.
Regurgitated owl pellets at the bases of trees, or mobbing jays and crows, help
you spot owls including: great horned, northern saw-whet, long-eared, barred
and eastern screech-owls. Several red-tailed hawks make their homes high in
the trees, and ospreys search the waters of the sound for unsuspecting fish. The
woods are also home to wild turkeys, raccoons, white-tailed deer and coyotes.
In spring, a regular resident of the meadow is the well-camouflaged and oddlooking
American woodcock. In March and April, listen at dusk for the male’s
nasal peent, and watch its spectacular aerobatic courtship flights.
The Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary near the park’s western boundary is a
salt marsh dotted by forested rock outcrops. In the marsh, see several duck and goose species, great and snowy egrets, and green and great blue herons.
During the winter, check open areas along Orchard Beach and around its
parking lot for snowy owls visiting from the far north. Harbor seals can be
seen at low tide along the coastline in winter. The beach is also where you can
see the primordial spectacle of horseshoe crabs emerging from the sound each
May, when they come ashore to lay their eggs.
Special Tips: From Pelham south, the park is closed from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.; the
Orchard Beach section of the park is open from dawn to dusk.
River, Long Island Sound
between Bronx County Line
and Middletown Rd., Watt
Ave., Bronx, NY,
Other Activities: Visitors enjoy miles of bridle paths and hiking trails punctuated by lookouts, as
well as Orchard Beach and a breathtaking 13-mile saltwater shoreline hugging
Long Island Sound. Urban park rangers provide free school programs and public
tours throughout the year. Information from the Pelham Bay Nature Center will
enrich a visitor’s viewing experience. Another great way to get a fresh perspective
on marsh wildlife is from the water by canoe or kayak.
Ownership: NYC Dept of Parks & Recreation
Size: 2,700 acres
Closest Town: Bronx
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: