Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Who flew over the play last night?

Black-crowned Night-heron

Black Skimmer
2 photos by Lloyd Spitalnik

Barn Owl
[internet photo]

A corresponent named Orrin sent this query to eBirds:

Saw Merchant of Venice [at the Delacorte Theater] last night, and before the play heard or saw robins, red-wing blackbirds, a flicker, and chimney swifts. Then, around dusk and again after 10 P.M. a large bird with what appeared to be gray wings flew over Turtle Pond. What would be out that late? Any owls seen recently in Central Park?

Tom Kerr
sent in the first response:

I would guess a night-heron

Phil Jeffrey, the moderator of eBirds summed up the possibilities:

There used to be Eastern Screech-Owls in the Ramble as part of the ill-fated reintroduction project. However I'm not aware of any now and I'm also not aware of any other species of breeding owl in the park. Nocturnal hunters are likely to be the Black-crowned Night Heron (as noted by Tom) but in previous years there have also been Common Nighthawks and even Black Skimmers at Turtle Pond. Barn Owl is theoretically possible but unlikely (nearest ones I personally know about are at Liberty State Park in NJ). A lot of normal birds fly around well into twilight hours as well.

PS from Marie:

I'm casting my vote with Tom. As far as anyone knows all the screech owls are gone. There haven't been any skimmers seen for a long time. And though as Phil says, normal birds often fly into the twilight hours, 10pm is well past twilight; diurnal birds are asleep in their night roosts by then. My vote goes to the Black-crowned Night Heron