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NY DEC Watchable Wildlife

Outdoor Discovery

Van Cortland Park
Description: Van Cortlandt Park sits atop ridges and valleys in the northwest Bronx. More than half of the park’s 1,100 acres are protected as “forever wild,” making Van Cortland New York City’s third-largest Forever Wild Nature Preserve. Roger Tory Peterson studied birds here in 1934 when he was preparing his first bird guide, and many other influential birders got their start on these ecologically diverse grounds.

Sports fields and playgrounds surround a richly forested heartland fed by Tibbets Brook. Tree cover in Van Cortlandt’s forest is known for being among the thickest of any New York City park. The park is home to the Bronx’s largest lake and includes grassland, wetland and scrub habitat as well. Residents, visitors and wildlife all find refuge from the heat of the city under the quiet green shade of Van Cortlandt’s oak forests.

Wildlife to Watch: Van Cortlandt Park is one of only four city parks designated as a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area. As many as 240 bird species have been observed here, with nearly 80 recorded as nesting. You can see an exceptional diversity of migrant songbirds, and nearly every species of land bird in the region has been recorded in the Croton Woods portion of the park.

Eastern kingbirds call from shore-side treetops, while mallards glide out from swamp loosestrife, and brightly colored wood ducks swim in the shadows. Green herons and great and snowy egrets search for fish and frogs. Red-winged blackbirds cry from cattail heads, and painted turtles sun themselves atop muskrat lodges. Belted kingfishers rattle from their perches above, and raccoons work the shoreline nearby. Raptors such as barred owls and red-tailed hawks sometimes hunt in Van Cortlandt’s woods and wetlands.

Fishing is popular in Van Cortlandt’s lake. Look in the shallows for sunfish, bluegills, yellow perch and occasionally common carp and white suckers. Largemouth bass may also be seen chasing smaller fish in the shallows.

Special Tips: The nature center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

718-430-1890, Van Cortlandt Park S. between Broadway and Jerome Ave., Bronx, NY, www.nycgovparks.org/parks/VanCortlandtPark

Other Activities: Dozens of paths and roads wind through the park. Among these are nearly seven miles of nature trails for hiking, ranging from gentle to steep terrain. The Riverdale Equestrian Centre is located in the park, and horseback riding is allowed on miles of bridle trail. A nearly 2-mile-long bicycle trail is also available. Audubon experts and Urban Park Rangers conduct birdwalks every Saturday morning except when Christmas Day or New Year’s Day falls on a Saturday.

Ownership: NYC Department of Parks & Recreation 
Size: 1,146 
Closest Town: Bronx

RestroomsFishingHikingPicnic tablesVisitor CenterDrinking WaterBicycling

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Wood Duck - Photo by Gerry Lemmo
Please see map link below

Driving Directions:
By subway: Take the 1 train to the last stop (242nd St.). Walk north on Broadway. Enter the park at West 246th St. and follow the signs to the center.

By bus: Take the Bx9 bus to the 242nd St. stop. Walk north on Broadway. Enter the park at West 246th St. and follow the signs to the center.

Map Link

Van Cortland Park : Wildlife Viewing Area