New York City is part of the Atlantic Flyway, a major bird migration route that swoops along the Atlantic Coast all the way from the Arctic to the Caribbean Sea. Commuting birds, like many New Yorkers, enjoy the respite of Central Park, but have few other options for food and rest in concrete-heavy Manhattan. Artist Anina Gerchick’s “Birdlink” is envisioned as a year-round living sculpture for local and migrating birds in these urban areas.
“The original idea was to have this in the densest urban areas possible so that it would really fill in a gap, especially since birds tend to fly over the Atlantic Flyway, see Central Park, land there, and then have to move north or south from that point,” Gerchick told Hyperallergic. “It’s been shown that they really do need places to rest and get more sustenance, so the idea was to provide some pockets — even if they’re small — to make a corridor. We ended up having the opportunity to build it on Governors Island, which is a very different place, but a perfect place to launch it.”
This summer’s prototype on Governors Island was part of New York City Audubon’s Nature Center and involved a nine-foot-tall plant wall installed outside one of the island’s former military homes. Its native plants, donated by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, were each rooted in separate containers that were supported by a bamboo structure. As the summer rains caused the plants to flourish, blueberries, purpletop tridens, black-eyed susans, and other flora attracted birds and bumblebees. The spiraling form of “Birdlink” is constructed from repurposed and affordable materials so as to be visually engaging while also feasible to deploy at multiple sites.
“I have been a painter all my life, and at some point I just found that my concerns had a lot to do with the city, the urban environment, and the environmental issues around climate change,” Gerchick stated. So she got a master’s degree in landscape architecture at City College of New York, and expanded her practice into public art that concentrates on ecological issues.
“Birdlink” is in a new phase in Williamsburg’s East River State Park. Its second iteration opened on October 6, timed with fall migration. It is on the Brooklyn waterfront through May 2019 as part of the park’s outreach to both human and bird visitors. In the winter, its modular design will allow for certain plants to be brought down and covered during their dormancy; pods, seeds, and other bird favorites will remain as an avian resource. Then in spring, the plants will again be reconfigured for the next migration season.
“The idea is that it could go into various places and it would have to accommodate each site on its own terms,” Gerchick explained. “People who I’ve talked to who are experts on birds say that even to have a small offering of native habitat, birds come to it.”
Following its installation in East River State Park, “Birdlink” is planned to pop up in 2020 in Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side, a much denser urban setting than the first two locations, and thus a more necessary site for birds. Similar to environmentally-minded design projects such as the Berlin-based Green City Solutions’s CityTree, a 13-foot wall of moss intended to be a self-sustaining air cleaner, and Studio Roosegaarde’s smog-eating bicycle, “Birdlink” is as much about raising awareness as it is about solving an ecological problem.
“I think that the issue of birds is just a really good one to lead people into thinking about environmental issues,” Gerchick said. “We can relate to them, and a lot of people like them, and there are political issues [related] to them, too. For instance, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is having its 100th anniversary this year, and at the same time that treaty has been under attack by the Trump administration. So there are really big legislative problems that we have to be aware of and help to defend. Birds can open up into culture and politics and the environment.”
by Allison Meier
December 4, 2018
Central Park and Prospect Park are globally recognized as havens for a variety of migratory birds. But just like every other New Yorker who stops for coffee ahead of their long, morning commute, birds also need stopovers for nourishment before continuing on their exhausting journeys. The question artist Anina Gerchick had was, simply, is the city a good host?
“So then the idea came to me, [birds] need to have nourishment that parks in parts of the city don’t offer since they don’t have native plants,” said Gerchick, the artist behind a yearlong project that invites local and migrating birds to urban parks around the city. "How do I get a public space to be a wildlife habitat?"
She found an answer in BIRDLINK, a living sculpture and eco-art project comprised of living plants that change with the seasons. Constructed with a stepping, spiraling, green checkerboard-like grid, these public installations serve two purposes: Provide a habitat for birds, and spread awareness.
The idea began as a plan to install a BIRDLINK in Sara D. Roosevelt Park in 2020, but thanks to help from NYC Audubon a 9-feet-tall prototype was installed on Governors Island this summer.
“It was great working there because it’s a quiet and a calm place, but it shuts down in the fall and that’s when the East River State Park invited us," Gerchick said.
In it’s second phase, BIRDLINK opened another sculpture on Oct. 6 in the East River State Park in Williamsburg, which is now in its winter stage.
“Since they are young plants in their first season, they are being shielded from the wind of the East River with piles of fallen leaves covered with burlap fabric,” Gerchick said. “When spring comes in March, all this will be removed and the plants will begin their cycle of growth again and the flowers will start blooming toward May.”
By Sushmita Roy
December 6, 2018
Year Of The Bird!
In 2018, we mark the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed. In honor of this milestone, nature lovers around the world are joining forces to celebrate 2018 as the “Year of the Bird.” The Year of the Bird will celebrate the wonder of our feathered friends and provide an opportunity for people everywhere to recommit themselves to protecting birds today and for the next hundred years. Through 12 months of storytelling, science, and conservation, Year of the Bird will examine how our changing environment is driving dramatic losses among bird species around the globe and highlight what we can do help reverse this negative trend. To kick-start the effort, National Geographic, the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and BirdLife International are combining their resources to create a Year of the Bird website and are committed to creating print and digital content to help engage the public throughout the year. We are reaching out to you to be part of this effort and to help us rally local and worldwide awareness and support for birds and their habitats in the coming year.
Citizen Science & Educational Outreach
BIRDLINK installations are hubs for community events. They host educational programming in ecology and science, and activate locations for art and performance events. BIRDLINK’s earthy re-used construction materials contrast the embedded sound recordings, and signage alerts people to free mobile apps facilitating citizen science and bird and plant identification.
Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations in their work to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.
Merlin Bird ID App
Take a walk with Merlin Merlin Bird ID app - it identifies more than 650 U.S. and Canada birds, and comes with photos, maps, and sounds. Download it and head out for a short, head-clearing walk each morning or evening.
Keep a daily list — and share it! eBird provides a handy way to keep all your sightings in one place: upload photos and sounds to remind you of what you found, while the data you enter helps scientists understand bird populations.