Beastly NYC

Alyson Penn

In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, magical creatures escape Newt Scamander's suitcase and go gallivanting around New York City. In real-life, of course, the five boroughs are home to all sorts of animals—furry ones with four legs or slippery ones with flippers—in our zoos and parks and beyond. Here’s where to find the wildest residents of the concrete jungle.

Zoos and Aquarium

New York City has five zoos—one in each borough. The Bronx Zoo is easily the largest, with 750 species from all over the world who live in habitats designed to mirror their natural homes. Among the exotic “beasts” you’ll see there are Asian elephants, snow leopards and polar bears. The Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Staten Island Zoo also have a wide range of animals, including penguins, grizzly bears and red pandas.

Bronx Zoo. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite

And where better to see sea animals then right by the ocean? The New York Aquarium in Coney Island features aquatic creatures like the green moray eel, California sea lion and sand tiger shark. Little ones will love the penguin, sea otter and walrus feedings.

Park Wildlife

You can see more than just squirrels in NYC parks. Read on to find out which other friends you might find scurrying about, and where.

Pelham Bay Park and Orchard Beach: The Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park is home to wild turkeys and white-tailed deer. Harbor seals sun themselves at the adjoining Orchard Beach.

Central Park: Keep your eyes peeled for painted and snapping turtles, little brown bats, mute swans, wood ducks and red bats in the City’s most popular park.

Prospect Park: Not only is there horseback riding in the Brooklyn park, there are also red-bellied woodpeckers and spotted salamanders.

Birding Spots

Some might be surprised to find that New York City has plenty of bird-watching opportunities— it’s a stopover on the Atlantic Flyway during migration, according to the NYC Audubon Society. Here are some highlights:

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: This is one of the best birding spots in the northeast. Bird-watchers at the refuge have spotted more than 330 different species over the past two decades, including egrets, herons, ibises, ospreys and peregrine falcons.

Great Kills Park: This Staten Island park is a place to see species like warblers, sparrows and the American woodcock.

Van Cortlandt Park: Woodpeckers in Northeast Forest, great horned owls near Croton Woods and barn swallows in the Southwest Zone are just a few of the birds you can spot in this expansive park.

Central Park: Those in the know say the Ramble is the best bird-watching site in Central Park. All in all, one could find up to 280 different species of bird in the park, including red-tailed hawks, Baltimore orioles and American goldfinches. Use the Audubon Society’s Central Park birding checklist to assist you.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Tom Perry

Menagerie Miscellany

Queens County Farm: See pigs, cows, sheep, goats and hens at this family-friendly farm that’s open seven days a week.

Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine: Three peacocks—Jim, Harry and Phil—have been known to saunter around this church’s grounds. Spot them in the Cathedral Close.

Dog runs: Most NYC parks have dog runs—gated areas where dogs run around and play. Bring yours and join in, or watch from beyond the fences.

Charging Bull: Head to the Financial District to see the Charging Bull statue in Bowling Green Park. It’s considerably less dangerous than a real bull. For other animal statues, see this list.

Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Photo: Alex Lopez

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