Posted tagged ‘Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bioacoustic Program’

Whales in NYC!

January 31, 2011

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


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