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• Historical Neighbors
• Street and Backyard

• Park and Green Places

• Shore and Wetlands

• Salt and Freshwater

• Tiny Neighbors
• Unwelcome Neighbors
• Occasional and
  Unexpected Neighbors

• Wildlife Sighting Log
• Resources

• Hours and Tours


Urban Neighbors:                               
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Images of New York City Wildlife  

Urban Neighbors celebrates a glorious and often overlooked phenomenon of New York City: the abundance of wildlife within its five boroughs. It refutes the canard that pigeons, cockroaches, and rats are the city’s only local wild fauna.

Yes, these ubiquitous creatures are familiar "urban neighbors." But House Sparrows, Crows, Starlings, Gray Squirrels, House Mice, feral cats, Blue Jays, and Robins also inhabit the "concrete jungle," as do the Peregrine Falcons nesting on skyscrapers and bridges, Monk Parakeet communities thriving on Brooklyn utility poles, and House Finches waking apartment dwellers with their melodious early morning song. And New York City offers wild animals much more than buildings and streets. Extensive green areas – parks, wildlife refuges, and also lawns and backyards – provide permanent or seasonal homes for many and diverse creatures: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge recorded 326 species of resident, breeding, and migrant birds and over 81 fish species in the Bay, from 1953 to 1990. Central Park, the best known of the city’s green spaces, has been hailed as one of "America’s 14 best birding sites." Of some 166 species of butterflies in New York State, more than 134 have been seen here. The waters of the city’s harbors, rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds – cleaner now than they have been in many years – are inhabited by numerous fishes, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians, water birds, and mammals.

Through arresting images and other objects in various media from the extensive resources of The New York Public Library and photographs from other sources, Urban Neighbors underscores how artists from various places have since the mid-17th century portrayed the animals that are New York City’s "urban neighbors." The online exhibition is organized into eight sections: Historical Neighbors, Street and Backyard Neighbors, Park and Green Places Neighbors, Shore and Wetlands Neighbors, Salt and Freshwater Neighbors, Tiny Neighbors, Unwelcome Neighbors, and Occasional and Unexpected Neighbors.

The website for Urban Neighbors features a sampling of the approximately 250 animal species on view in the physical exhibition, already a highly selective cross-section of New York City fauna. Exact locations where a particular animal has been or may be seen can be found readily in field guides and checklists prepared by governmental and private organizations. However, to suggest some of the viewing possibilities for less common species, some of the image descriptions mention one or more places where a given animal has been seen.

Check out the sighting log to record your interaction with some of the native New York City wildlife featured in Urban Neighbors. You may also browse the sighting log by animal, borough, park or natural area, and/or habitat to view a sighting you have submitted or to read others’ observations.

We hope Urban Neighbors will inspire New Yorkers to further investigate the fascinating and often overlooked local fauna with whom they share their city.

Miriam T. Gross
Natural History Specialist, General Research Division

Major support for this exhibition has been provided by  

This website is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III and by the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation, Inc. in memory of Ruth and Seymour Klein.

Support for the Exhibitions Program at The New York Public Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Library has been provided by Pinewood Foundation and by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III.

In Urban Neighbors, animal names are capitalized according to the system used by many zoologists, in which the common name of a species – e.g., House Sparrow, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Blue Jay – is capitalized, while a generic or group name – e.g., butterfly, duck, feral cat – is lower case.


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