Must-See Jamaica Bay: Wildlife and Birding

Outdoors & Recreation

by staff, 05/27/2014

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The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is perfect for families in search of a day trip, for bird-watchers and ornithologists—for any lover of nature. Start your trek at the Visitor Contact Station, where you will find all the information you'll need for a day of exploring. The LEED-certified space features colorful exhibits detailing the plants and animals that inhabit Jamaica Bay and background on the area's vibrant history. After picking up a free permit for the trails, venture out with bird walks, cruises, tours and animal-information sessions. The variety of creatures here is so vast that more than 60 butterfly species have been spotted, along with a community of horseshoe crabs that's one of the biggest in the Northeast. Just like the animals themselves, opportunities for wildlife viewing aren't confined to the refuge. Marine Park in Brooklyn and Fort Tilden provide alternatives for birders. 

June 1, July 6, August 10, August 17 
Sunset EcoCruise at Jamaica Bay, departing from Pier 16 at South Street Seaport 
These tours, organized by the Audubon Society, travel to waterways and surrounding shore areas where egrets, herons and ibis nest. The vantage point from the boat lends a magical perspective on the City and its natural expanses, particularly as the sun sets. For more information and to register, visit  

June 18–August 29 (Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays)
Whale and dolphin watching at Jamaica Bay
The grandeur of whales and dolphins moving through the ocean is an incomparable sight. These tours take people out to the open ocean where the mammals can be found. For more information, visit  

July 4 and 25
Ruffle Bar Excursion at Floyd Bennett Field, Seaplane Ramp
These three-hour kayak outings take paddlers on a 4- to 5-mile journey around Jamaica Bay. Along the way, discover the area's history and the animals and plants that call the small island of Ruffle Bar home. Reservations are required by calling 718-338-3799. 

July 10
Yellow Bar Excursion at Floyd Bennett Field, Seaplane Ramp
On this 5-mile trip, participants will paddle to the Yellow Bar salt marsh during low tide to see the plants and animals that thrive there. Reservations are required. Call 718-338-3799 for more information. 

July 17
Gerritsen Creek Kayak Excursion at Gateway Marina
Spend the afternoon kayaking around Gerritsen Creek estuary on this 4.5-mile trip. Participants will make a stop at the Salt Marsh Nature Center, where Urban Park Rangers will provide an introduction to the center's animal exhibits and the local habitat. Reservations are required by calling 718-338-3799.

August 13
Junior Ranger Paddle at Floyd Bennett Field, Seaplane Ramp
Travelers on this jaunt will paddle along the shore of Floyd Bennett Field and observe wildlife in action. The event is open to children ages 6 and up who are accompanied by an adult. Reservations are required—call 718-338-3799 for more information.

August 20
Idlewild Park Paddle at Idlewild Park
This idyllic beginner paddle will explore the salt marsh near the head of Jamaica Bay. The 2-mile trip is open to the public, and children ages 6 and up must be accompanied by an adult. When on shore, rowers will have NYC Park Rangers help them spot birding activity. Call 718-338-3799 for more information and to make a reservation, which is required. 

September 13
New York City Honey Festival at Beach 97th Street Island
Part of Honey Week, this annual celebration of all things honey will feature tastings as well as kids' activities, beekeeping demos, an observation hive and a marketplace of bee-related products. 

Dates and times are subject to change. Check online or by phone for advance confirmation.

related venues/(3)

  1. 1
    Rockaway Beach
    Beach 2nd St (to Beach 149th St)
    Queens – The Rockaways
    NY 11693
  2. 2
    Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
    Cross Bay Blvd near Broad Channel
    Queens – Jamaica
    NY 11693
  3. 3
    Floyd Bennett Field
    50 Aviation Road
    NY 11234

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