Whales in NYC!

You know, within a few tens of miles of Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera of NYC, there are the largest animals on this planet, crooning and singing arias and magnificent songs, just offshore. And if you went to the very top of the Stature of Liberty, looking out onto the ocean south of NY Harbor … you’d be looking onto the stage on which the animals are singing. They’re right there.

– Christopher Clark, Director of the Bioacoustic Research Program at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology

There are whales right here in New York Harbor. And seals and dolphins and a wealth of marine life.  Wildlife is returning not just to the skies and parks of the city, but to its waters.

Spouting humpback whale

Tom Paladino of American Princess Cruises in Queens has been leading wildlife-watching boat tours into the waters of New York Harbor and beyond. In a recent article in the NY Daily News, Paladino reports a tenfold increase in whale sightings in recent years, and says he saw dolphins virtually every day from June to September.

The Daily News posted a nice video of whales and seals seen from one of Capt. Paladino’s boat.

Six different species of whale have been identified in New York waters: Humpback, Minke, Fin, Sei, Blue and the endangered North Atlantic Right whale, of which fewer than 400 still exist.

Eubalaena glacialis (North Atlantic Right whale) with calf

In 2008, the Bioacoustic Research Program at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology placed acoustic devices in the waters around NYC  to monitor and study the whales.  Yes, the famed ornithology lab has a pioneering acoustic wing that studies animal communication with a focus on birds, elephants and whales.  According to an article in the Daily News, a group of 30 to 50 fin whales appears to have taken up full-time residence just past the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge; Photo: Andreas Praefcke

Thrilling as this news is, it’s also worrisome.  The waters around New York Harbor are filled with boat traffic, placing the whales in danger of collisions, a leading cause of injury and death.

The New York bioacoustic study was short-lived, but Christopher Clark, Director of the Bioacoustic Program, is trying to raise money for further research as well as for a monitoring system to warn ships of the presence of whales.

Listen to NPR’s joyful 2008 interview with Clark as well as to the sounds of New York’s whales:

(click on the arrow to listen)

If you walk by the rivers, keep your eyes open for sea mammals.

Last March brought a dolphin to the East River

Photo by Bill Hannan of FDNY Marine Company 6

and a seal to the piers along the Hudson.

Seal at 64th Street and the Hudson River.

As native New Yorker Fats Waller so eloquently put it, “One never knows, do one?”

Fats Waller

Explore posts in the same categories: 2011, In the City, January, Sea Mammals, Wildlife/Natural History, Winter

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15 Comments on “Whales in NYC!”


  1. […] Spotted in East River Hudson River Dolphin Whales in NYC Hudson River Dolphin in […]


  2. […] addition to the whales of New York Harbor, marine mammals that have occasionally made their way into the lower Hudson include harbor seals, […]

  3. Andre Says:

    This is wonderful. The waters must really have been cleaned up a lot in the last 40 years. I recall a manatee being in the Hudson a couple years ago too.


    • Yes, it’s nice to have some positive environmental news, isn’t it? The Hudson really is ever so much cleaner than it was, thanks to so much hard work and tireless advocacy onthe part of some far-sighted people, including Pete Seeger!

  4. marianne Says:

    This is an amazing coverage of this story..it makes me really happy to know that our cetaceans can come home to our waters again!

  5. Gunnar Says:

    Great article, very informative. I also enjoyed the boat ride. It is very beautiful. Thanks

  6. p hoey Says:

    O frabjous day! Hulloo hullay! A life-enhancing blog–long may those gracious mammals swim and sing in Noo Yawk waters.
    Thank you, thank you for the great info.

  7. john dunstan Says:

    a seal basking on a tire

  8. John Mead Says:

    Awesome post! Thanks for sharing this info! As a kid who grew up in Manhattan in the 70s & 80s I would never have imagined this! Thanks for helping make my day!


  9. Great post. Thanks as always for all your NYC wildlife stories.

  10. daddy0 Says:

    Fascinating and wonderful. More, more, More. Daddy-O

  11. Barbara Says:

    WOWOWOW!!! What a marvelous post – I love whales – and to think they are right there in NYC harbour – Thanks for telling us this wonderful story… Let’s cheer Chris Clark on with his research, truly astounding. There is so much to learn about these magnificent sea creatures – about all of them that are returning to your great city’s waters.

  12. mthew Says:

    Even a modest return to the teeming waters of the pre-Columbian onslaught is worth celebrating. Whale, ho!

  13. Charlotte Says:

    30-50 whales under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge? Unbelievable. I’m sure most New Yorkers don’t know this, heck, most people don’t know this. Thanks for shedding light. I hope Chris Clark gets his money! (those whale sounds are so familiar, reminding us we’re one and the same.)


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