Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

HBO to Debut BIRDERS: THE CENTRAL PARK EFFECT, 7/16

op in New York City's Central Park - and they don't go unnoticed. The revealing documentary BIRDERS: THE CENTRAL PARK EFFECT chronicles one year in the life of the extraordinary array of wild birds that grace Manhattan's celebrated patch of green, and the equally colorful New Yorkers who schedule their lives around the rhythms of migration, when it debuts MONDAY, JULY 16 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO. The debut of the Oscar(R)-nominated documentary short "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom," which shows how nature can be a rejuvenating as well as destructive force, follows at 10:00 p.m.

Other HBO playdates: July 19 (5:00 p.m.), 21 (10:00 a.m., 5:20 a.m.), 24 (11:30 a.m., midnight) and 29 (2:00 p.m.)

HBO2 playdates: July 18 (8:00 p.m.), 22 (5:25 a.m.) and 26 (8:00 a.m.)

HBO Documentary Films presents another weekly series this summer, debuting provocative new specials every Monday through July 30. Other July films include: "Hard Times: Lost on Long Island" (July 9); "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" (July 16); "Vito" (July 23); and "About Face: Supermodels Then and Now" (July 30).

Devoting equal time and affection to birds and birders, first-time filmmaker Jeffrey Kimball explores a distinctly New York phenomenon, telling a story of humanity, nature and the precarious balance between the two. BIRDERS: THE CENTRAL PARK EFFECT captures an astonishing number of species - from hummingbirds and herons to owls and hawks - with stunning HD photography that does justice to the birds' amazingly diverse patterns, hues and personalities. The film also celebrates devoted NYC birders who find a paradise within the urban chaos, among them author Jonathan Franzen and Starr Saphir, the "matriarch" of Central Park birdwatching.

It's springtime in New York City, and the city's biggest park is hosting a community of several hundred birders. As veteran birder Lloyd Spitalnik notes, "If you get tired of looking at The Common birds, you might as well just pack it in." Chris Cooper says his friends don't see him from April 15 through Memorial Day; if they question his annual obsession, he counters by rattling off his "seven pleasures of birding." Anya, a 15-year-old birder, wants to protect birds because they are "so alive, active, varied and beautiful."

As the birders describe their passion, the pleasure they derive from the birds is both contagious and poignant. To a birder, finding a feathered friend is like a celebrity sighting. Scientists call the concentration of birds funneling into this oasis of nature amid a sea of steel and cement the Central Park Effect.

Septuagenarian Starr Saphir, who has been giving bird tours almost daily for 20 years, wasdiagnosed with terminal breast cancer a few years ago. She talks about her heightened joy in birding, which eases her pain, and shares lists of birds she's seen, which she has kept in journals every day since she was a child, looking at them fondly like a photo album or scrapbook. Jonathan Franzen says that when he began birding, it was like an addiction; a morning without birding gave him a sense of unease that could only be fixed by the first spotting of the day, like a smoker craving a cigarette.

Central Park is a magnet for millions of birds who need a rest stop as they migrate along the Eastern Seaboard twice a year, in spring and fall. While this migration is a dangerous process, during which millions of birds die each year, many survivors remember stopovers in the fall and return to the Park, where devoted birders await them.

By early June, all the migrants have passed through New York City, but a couple of dozen species linger. Birds have adapted to human urbanization, and though Central Park is entirely man-made, it appears no different to birds than most natural parks in the country, which are also managed landscapes. Unfortunately, notes birder Jonathan Rosen, the Effect can lead some to believe that the world and the environment is doing just fine.

In winter, species that tend to migrate north in warmer months often fly south to Central Park. At the annual Christmas bird count, citizen scientists help produce the official "Birds in Decline Report" by going out in teams and counting every bird in the Park. Though a seemingly impossible task, patterns can be found in the results. One depressing statistic for bird lovers is that nearly a quarter of all species have had a 50% decline.

Sitting on a park bench the next spring, Jonathan Rosen says he doesn't think of his birding as a hobby "any more than raising my children would be considered a hobby." Perhaps, he concludes, as all sorts of animal populations slowly diminish, people are hungry to touch something that may be slipping away.

A 2012 SXSW selection in Documentary Feature Competition, BIRDERS: THE CENTRAL PARK EFFECT is directed and produced by Jeffrey Kimball; executive produced by Pamela Hogan and Tom Casciato; edited by Daniel Baer; co-produced and co-edited by Nick August-Perna; cinematography by Tony Pagano, Nick August-Perna and Chris Dapkins; bird and nature cinematography by Jeffrey Kimball; music by Paul Damian Hogan.



Related Stories View More TV Stories
Everything You Need to Know About the WICKED Movie Photo
It's a guide to the Wicked movie. The hit Broadway musical Wicked is officially coming to the big screen! BroadwayWorld collected all the information we could about the upcoming film - including who's starring, what roles haven't yet been cast, and what will change from stage to screen.

RANDOM ACTS OF FLYNESS Season Two Sets Debut on HBO Max Photo
Artist, musician, and filmmaker Terence Nance returns for a long-awaited second season of the acclaimed series RANDOM ACTS OF FLYNESS. Exploring the metaphysics of Black life through avant-garde storytelling, the second season follows Terence (Terence Nance) and Najja (Alicia Pilgrim). Watch the new video trailer now!

INTERCATS Comedy Series in Development at Disney Photo
'Intercats,' an animated sitcom set in a cat workplace, is in development at Disney Branded Television with multiple Emmy Award-winning Baobab Studios and screenwriter Pamela Ribon (recipient of the Cristal Award at the 2022 Annecy International Animation Film Festival and writer of two of Disney's 'Ralph Breaks the Internet' and 'Moana').

VIDEO: Watch the New COCAINE BEAR Trailer Photo
Cocaine Bear stars Keri Russell (The Americans), O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), Christian Convery-Jennings (Sweet Tooth), Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project), Isiah Whitlock Jr. (BlacKkKlansman), and more. Watch the new video trailer now!


From This Author - Caryn Robbins


Lin-Manuel Miranda To Return For HIS DARK MATERIALS Season 3 On HBOLin-Manuel Miranda To Return For HIS DARK MATERIALS Season 3 On HBO
October 6, 2022

HBO has confirmed that award-winning composer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda will return for the third season of the fantasy drama.

Development Halts On Disney+ BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Prequel SeriesDevelopment Halts On Disney+ BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Prequel Series
February 10, 2022

A planned Beauty and the Beast musical prequel series will not move forward at Disney+.

Tony & Grammy Winner Michael Cerveris' Loose Cattle to Stream Live Performance TonightTony & Grammy Winner Michael Cerveris' Loose Cattle to Stream Live Performance Tonight
January 5, 2022

Loose Cattle, fronted by two-time Tony Award & Grammy winner Michael Cerveris and Kimberly Kaye, will stream a performance live from New Orleans tonight!

Bertie Carvel Joins THE CROWN Season Five As Tony BlairBertie Carvel Joins THE CROWN Season Five As Tony Blair
October 28, 2021

The acclaimed Netflix series, 'The Crown' has added Tony Award-winning actor Bertie Carvel to its cast in the role of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

REVIEW ROUNDUP: What Do Critics Think of EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE?REVIEW ROUNDUP: What Do Critics Think of EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE?
September 17, 2021

Inspired by true events, Everybody's Talking About Jamie follows Jamie New (Harwood), a teenager from Sheffield, who dreams of life on stage.