A few days after the great Northeaster Blizzard of 2016 hit New York Harbor hard with several feet of snow, fierce winds, and rough surf, the sights of waterfowl have returned. A large flock or raft of Greater Scaup (Aythya marina) could be seen today in Lower New York Bay, south of the Verrazano Bridge.
I'm not kidding either when I say a large raft of birds. There were absolutely more than 1,000 scaup to be seen floating in the harbor, along with a few goldeneyes and buffleheads mixed into the flock. It was a huge bunch of black and white feathers floating on the bay.
Scaup are frequent visitors to New York Harbor every winter. Sometimes the flock is small, but most years the ducks arrive in huge numbers. They arrive from breeding grounds near the northern limits of the boreal forest and out on the tundra in Canada. The birds migrate to New York Harbor for one reason - the abundance of aquaitc food, including clams, mussels, and snails. They will spend the next several months in the harbor to rest and feed before another busy breeding season up north.