The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the United States, and offers New York City residents and visitors a unique setting to observe more than 330 species of birds including egrets, herons, oyster-catchers, peregrine falcons, and osprey on its 13,000 acre preserve.

The park has become a haven for so many species of migrating birds due to its extraordinary ecosystem which includes a salt marsh, upland fields, a wooded area, several fresh and brackish-water ponds, and an ocean bay. The park is also home to more than 60 species of butterflies, a large number of reptiles and small animals, and one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs in the country.

While visitors are free to roam throughout the park’s trails and fields, most people plan their time at Forest Park so that they can participate in one of the many Park Ranger programs offered throughout the year. They include various presentations on seasonal wildlife, sunset tours, hikes, boat trips, family programs, and an annual lecture series. Of special note, are the park’s bird watching sessions which bring avian lovers from throughout the world to Forest Park.

Most guided programs meet at the Visitor Contact Station. It’s here where you can free walking permits for trail hiking. You can also take a few minutes to walk through the station’s exhibits to learn more about the plant and animal life of Jamaica Bay.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, the only wildlife refuge in the National Park System, is also home to an impressive array of native reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, over 60 species of butterflies and one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs in the Northeast. Numerous ranger-led nature hikes, bird watching sessions, and seining activities give visitors the chance to get up close to these incredible animals and learn about protecting them.

Bring your camera and binoculars for bird watching; take one of the scheduled Moonlight Walks with
The Park Rangers to watch the animals and birds that come out at night, follow the park’s osprey migration project, or take the family to one the Junior Rangers programs where everyone can learn about the area’s shorebirds and how to protect them. Additionally, there are various seasonal and annual events like the Annual NY State Beach Cleanup and the Jamaica Bay Sunset Ecology Cruise.