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Thread: Wildlife in the City - Unlikely Inhabitants

  1. #1
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Default Wildlife in the City - Unlikely Inhabitants

    Quote: from ZippyTheChimp on 2:25 pm on May 19, 2003 in the thread A Great Estate Opens Its Gates
    That reminds me, I saw a wild turkey in Hudson River Park (just north of Perry St condos) about a month ago. I couldn't believe it.
    Can a Wild Turkey Find Success and Happiness in the Canyons of Manhattan?

    Much about this bird is a mystery.

    For starters, why did it take flight over Manhattan? Where did it come from? Is it alone?
    One thing is clear.

    "It's definitely a wild turkey," said E. J. McAdams, executive director of New York City Audubon, which has documented sightings of the bird from the Upper West Side to Chelsea and Greenwich Village since February. "And it's a talented turkey at that."

    Several other witnesses, lacking Mr. McAdams's ornithological insight, have been just as impressed.

    "The thing scared me to death," said Art Lindenauer, a retired chemical engineer who encountered the turkey in April on the balcony of his 28th-floor apartment on West 70th Street. Mr. Lindenauer has photographs of the turkey at rest, walking along the balcony railing, and taking flight.

    By all accounts, the wild turkey sightings apparently are a first in the center of Manhattan. Few species would seem less likely inhabitants of an urban core, considering the wild turkey's ungainly size, its native habitat in woods, mountains and swamps, and its diet of berries, nuts and insects.

    But its arrival is not altogether surprising, given that birds and animals have been making their way into densely populated areas across the nation.

    A coyote was found in Central Park in 1999, not far from where a pair of red-tailed hawks have nested on a luxury apartment building at Fifth Avenue and 74th Street. Bears, not yet spotted in Manhattan, have been spotted in the suburbs, feeding from garbage cans and lumbering across yards.

    Wild turkeys, long a beguiling sight along back roads and stone walls in the country, have been moving steadily to the suburbs and the fringes of the boroughs.

    Several have been spotted in recent years in Pelham Bay Park, in the Bronx Zoo, on Staten Island and in Inwood Hill Park at the northern tip of Manhattan.

    The turkey that has been spotted this year in Manhattan is clearly a female: she is smaller and less colorful than a male and lacks a male's wattles.

    "The population all around is so healthy, I would not be surprised to see one or two turkeys wander into Manhattan each year," said Greg Butcher, an ornithologist and director of citizen science for the National Audubon Society. "Turkeys are going to want woods and fields, and New York City parks provide them," he said, "but I would be surprised to see a self-sustaining population in Manhattan."

    Not everyone is convinced that a wild turkey could find its way into the center of Manhattan on its own.

    "If it's real, I'd say it was assisted into the city by some person," said Stephanie Easter, director of dispatch for the city's Center for Animal Care and Control, which rescues injured animals and birds.

    "We've never seen one in Manhattan," she said, "and I don't think the average person in this city knows what a wild turkey looks like."

    John Rowden, the curator of animals at the Central Park Zoo, said that no one had yet reported a wild turkey in his park but that recent sightings in the Bronx and Inwood might explain how one or more was spotted near the Hudson River on the West Side.

    "Turkeys are not great dispersers or fliers," he said, adding that they rarely range much over 12 miles. Even their limited flying abilities would allow turkeys to cross the narrow expanse of the Harlem River from the Bronx, find their way to the Hudson and migrate down its shoreline, he said.

    That appears to fit the pattern. Mr. McAdams, of the city's Audubon Society chapter, said the first two sightings were in February and mid-April, when what seems to have been the same bird was spotted trotting in the West 60's between West End Avenue and the West Side Drive.

    Then, on April 20, came Mr. Lindenauer's encounter on his 28th-floor balcony, in the Lincoln Towers apartment complex, just off West End Avenue. He said he spotted the turkey leaning against his living room window, as if she were taking a nap.

    Mr. Lindenauer, who was at home with his wife, Jinx, a sculptor, said he tapped on the window to get the turkey's attention. The bird stood up reluctantly, he said, and walked along the railing, posing for photographs for 15 minutes or so before she took off.

    That episode has mystified bird experts, who say turkeys have not been known to fly as high as the 28th floor.

    "They are not vertical fliers," said Mr. Butcher, the ornithologist. "You will see them maybe 20 feet up in trees, but not 100 feet. I'd say that turkey went up an elevator."

    Mr. Lindenauer insisted that the turkey was not planted on his balcony. Mr. McAdams said she could have made her way to the 28th floor by flying up from balcony to balcony, like an elevator making all the stops.

    The next recorded sighting, by a reporter, was on May 7, when a female wild turkey roosted quietly in the upper branches of a London plane tree in front of an elegant row of landmark-district brownstones on West 21st Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues.

    During the next few days, the turkey became a familiar sight on nearby Chelsea blocks.

    "Lots of us saw it," said Lenny Kesselman, owner of the London True Value Hardware store on Ninth Avenue near 22nd Street.

    The turkey gave her longest performance on May 8 on the lush grounds of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, which fill the block bounded by 9th and 10th Avenues and 20th and 21st Streets.

    Toni Daniels, the seminary's director of enrollment management, said she saw the turkey standing outside her office window early that morning. "A faculty member came in saying it must be a buzzard, and I thought it was a peahen," she recalled.

    Before long, the bird was identified by seminarians from the South who had seen turkeys at home.

    "It just strutted around here for three or four hours, then flew over the wall and was gone," Ms. Daniels said. Her colleagues started referring to the turkey as Glorvina, after Glorvina Rossell Hoffman, a particularly generous seminary benefactor in the 1800's.

    In the most recent sighting, Mr. McAdams said he saw what he believed to be the same turkey on Monday in Greenwich Village. She was roosting casually on top of a garage on Barrow Street, between Washington and West Streets, he said.

    Back on the Upper West Side, Mr. Lindenauer said he held little hope of a return visit. But he has named his balcony, instead of the bird, in honor of the April 20 encounter. The question is whether he did so while thinking of Thanksgiving.

    "I've decided," he said, "to call it the Butterball Roost."

    A female turkey visiting a 28th-floor balcony on West 70th Street on April 20. She appears to be the first of her kind to make a go of it in Manhattan's parks and airways.

  2. #2

    Default Wildlife in The City

    Thanks for validating my sighting, but now I'm really confused. Because of their constant alertness against predators, wild turkeys are supposed to be very difficult to hunt or photograph. But the sight of that female perched on the balcony leads me to believe she came to NYC like so many others - to get famous.

  3. #3


    January 14, 2004

    Heard of the City Mouse? Try Bigger, and Far Uglier


    What was that furry creature parked yesterday on a ledge at 135 East 35th Street? A big rat? A cat? A small bear? For nearly eight hours, a quiet corner in Murray Hill was transformed into a kind of temporary zoo, as passers-by stopped to gawk and guess the identity of the long-snouted cat-size animal that paced along a narrow stone ledge about nine feet over a brownstone garden, sniffing, shaking and yawning.

    "I was thinking it was a hedgehog, because of the Beatrix Potter books," said Jennifer Gould, who may have been the first to spot it, at 7:30 a.m.

    "I thought someone had put a giant statue of a rat in front of the building," said Lynn Peraza, owner of the topless club Flashdancers, who wore a multicolored fur coat.

    The animal was, in fact, an opossum - and not entirely an alien in Manhattan.

    "They, along with raccoons and squirrels, are among the most common small mammals that you would find in cities in the Northeast," said Pat Thomas, a curator of mammals at the Bronx Zoo. But because opossums are nocturnal and generally live in high places like trees, he said, they are not a common sight.

    This particular opossum served as a sort of urban Rorschach test. Some were afraid of it; others were afraid for it.

    Rose White, a nanny, whisked by, pushing a stroller. "It looks like a big rat," she said, shielding her eyes. "I can't even look at that," she said, and sped off.

    Even the Postal Service had to wait. Jay Spatarella, 53, who has been delivering mail in the neighborhood for 11 years, began walking up the stoop but stopped in his tracks when he caught sight of the marsupial. "I'll go back later," he promised. "Hopefully it will be gone."

    But Susan Wichmann, who lives in the neighborhood, thought the animal was cute and worried about its ability to survive on the streets. "He needs to be brought back where he belongs - the woods," she said. "I don't understand why they don't get him."

    In fact, an effort to return the animal to the wilderness had been tried earlier in the day, to no avail. Liz Stevens, who lives next door at No. 137, called 311, where she was directed to NYC Animal Care & Control and told that the opossum should not be removed.

    "If the animal appears healthy and not injured, we encourage people to leave it alone," said Edward Boks, director of the agency. "An opossum falls in a category that we call urban wildlife - wildlife that have adapted to an urban environment."

    Concerned that the animal might be scared by all the attention and run down the stairs into traffic, Ms. Stevens posted a sign on the front door that read: "Yes it is a Possum - they are all over the city and he will be fine - Don't scare him."

    But this opossum was not easily scared. It continued its high-wire act for hours, undaunted by the traffic noise and the gaggles of onlookers who came in waves.

    By about noon the animal had bravely made it to the stoop, and seemed about to make a run for it when Emilio Delgado, 33, bounded up the steps with a delivery. The animal caught sight of his three large plastic bags and skittered back onto the ledge. The contents of the bags? Fur coats.

    About an hour later, the animal again braved the trip to the stoop, and this time settled in. It cleaned itself, put its head down. Rain fell, people stared and pointed, but the animal would not budge. It looked as if it were playing possum.

    Then the sun came out, and a heroine arrived. Holly Staver, a legal secretary and the president of City Critters, a cat rescue and adoption group, pulled up in a car on her lunch break, and emerged with a red net in one hand and a blue-and-white polka-dot towel in the other. With some help, she eventually got the animal into her net, and then into her car.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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  5. #5


    Dang! Maybe this weekend me and Ol' Blue will head uptown for some possum hunting.

  6. #6
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    New York City


    Well, this says a lot about the city's environmental health in recent years.

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp
    Dang! Maybe this weekend me and Ol' Blue will head uptown for some possum hunting.
    I hope it will bite your wicked hand off and feed the fingers to its young.

  8. #8



    Of course I mean photo-shoot. I may as well confess. Ol' Blue is the artistic eye of all my photos. He points. I shoot.

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  10. #10


    Looks like you've put on a few. Life is good in Manhattan.

  11. #11


    May 16, 2004


    Holy Bat Detectors!


    Daniella Gustafson in Central Park, detecting equipment in hand.

    IT was around 7:20 one recent Saturday evening, with the light fading, that Dr. Kate Jones, a fellow of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Daniella Gustafson, a bird watcher who works for the New York Stock Exchange, made their way into Central Park to look for bats.

    As they walked against the gentle tide of couples and families leaving the park, Ms. Gustafson, 41, started to tune her bat detector, a pale gray box with two dials that was given to her as a wedding present. The device enables her to listen to the otherwise inaudible high-frequency chirps that bats use to home in on insects and avoid obstacles.

    Moments later, as they walked towards the Ramble, the detector started to emit high-pitched warbles. "That sounds like a cricket," said Dr. Jones, a veteran bat-watcher at 31. "It could be a shrew."The two women were making a first exploratory field mission for the New York Bat Group, a team of researchers and enthusiasts who are trying to learn more about the city's bat population. Dr. Jones, who works in what she describes as "extinction forecasting" and specializes in bats, set up the group this year and is recruiting volunteers for a summer of bat-walks, bat-catching and tagging.

    Little is known of New York City's bat world. Of the 10 or so species that live in New York State, four or five are thought to brave city life, creating crowded colonies in warm spaces under apartment roofs. Traces of three species (the Big Brown, Little Brown and Red) were found during last year's BioBlitz, a survey of Central Park's wildlife by the Explorers Club. But beyond that, except for a few anecdotal sightings and occasional deliveries of dead bats to the American Museum of Natural History, there is only guesswork, no estimate even of the population's size.

    Shortly after 8, Dr. Jones and Ms. Gustafson settled on a large rock in the Oven, an inlet overhung with trees at the opposite end of the lake from Bethesda Fountain. They waited. Then, silent at first, came the first sighting: a Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) flapping and swooping against the darkening sky.

    "How exciting is that!" Dr. Jones said, as Ms. Gustafson tuned the detector, which duly came alive with slowed-down versions of the quacks, slaps and gibbers of the bat's otherwise inaudible calls.

    "That was a feeding buzz," Dr. Jones added, as the calls seemed to collapse into a raspberry, the sound the bat makes as it focuses in on a moth or other insect snack.

    Because bats are so hard to identify visually, the best way to monitor a population is to build a library of their calls, which vary from species to species. Over the coming months, the New York Bat Group will catch a few of Central Park's bats and tag them to positively match the species and the sounds they make. The group's ultimate goal is not only to catalog and track the calls of the city's bats, but also to make them accessible to anybody interested enough to have a bat detector.

    By 9:20, the park was dark, populated only by isolated joggers and cyclists. A bat swept low over Dr. Jones and Ms. Gustafson as they paused on Bow Bridge. Heading back to the West Side toward the Gotham-like towers of the Eldorado, they stopped again on the south shore of the lake, where white and yellow overhead lights chalked shimmering lines on the water. A helicopter clattered overhead, and out of the darkness, a gondola approached, the gondolier singing a love song.

    Suddenly, the detector came alive with a burst of taps, chops, slaps and pops. Four or five bats floated in front of them.

    "Wow," Dr. Jones said. "Pretty cool."

    "The sound of the city," Ms. Gustafson added. "It's a rich mix."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  12. #12


    Like any neophyte, our feathered friend has quickly adapted to life in the city, and is now indistinguishable from native denizens.

    Here in Battery Park, while watch peddlers separate tourists from their money, he separates them from their bagels.

  13. #13
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    :P What a bird! Maybe he can't fly anymore eating so many of them...

  14. #14
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    It does love bagels. It's been there for months now. This turkey often gets more attention than all the statues, memorials, and sweeping views of Battery Park.

  15. #15

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