For the Birds by Nicky Enright

Location: Studio Delaj, 3545 Riverdale Avenue, Bronx, NY 10463
Mural on wall with colorful birds.
For the Birds by Nicky Enright in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx in New York City. Photo: Sydney Walsh/Audubon

Painted:  June 2024

About the Mural:  By painting this “posse” of birds looking over a busy intersection in the Bronx, artist Nicky Enright hopes to push his community to take more notice of their avian neighbors. “The basic concept behind the mural is to make birds larger than life,” he says. “To make the viewer be confronted with birds, [when] they could easily ignore them otherwise.” 

The idea behind “For the Birds”—the first Audubon mural to land in the borough—grew out of Project Nest, another effort that Enright completed with his sixth-grade art students, painting birds around the Riverdale Country School campus and creating a website to share details about the species. Since then, he says, “we all have become so much more sensitized to the birds around us, and to their songs.”

For this new mural, Enright enlisted another group of student artists to bring that avian awareness to the broader neighborhood. Studio Delaj owner Sokol Delaj—who is friends with Enright and has been cutting his hair for years—offered up the wall space along the side of his newly expanded beauty salon for the mural. “I believe art has the power to celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of nature in our world,” Delaj says.

The 15 birds, all species that can be spotted locally, face toward the center of the mural, as if holding a meeting. The plaque in the middle asks: “The birds are talking; are we listening?” This can be taken literally, Enright says, encouraging people to tune into the birdsong all around them. But as these species face growing threats from climate change, they could also be trying to tell us something bigger: “Maybe the birds are talking about, ‘It’s really hot out here, and my migratory patterns are out of whack,’” he says. “Are we listening to that?”

About the Birds:  The mural features a whopping 15 species that are vulnerable to extinction from climate change, according to Audubon’s Survival By Degrees report. From left to right, they are: Blue-headed Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Magnolia Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Brown Thrasher, Cerulean Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker, Cape May Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Short-eared Owl.

These migrators rely on pockets of habitat, including in cities like New York, along their journeys—whether they’re trekking all the way across the Americas, like the vibrant Scarlet Tanager, or making a shorter hop, like the whistling White-throated Sparrow. Climate change is set to transform their paths: If global warming continues at its current pace, nearly all of these species are projected to lose the majority of their summer breeding range. The Golden-winged Warbler and the Chestnut-sided Warbler could be pushed out of their current ranges entirely.

Still, there’s hope to keep some of these species around for future New Yorkers. The Brown Thrasher, a foxy-red ground forager, is set to disappear from the city if global temperatures rise by 3 degrees Celsius—but its local populations would be stable if that warming is reined in at 1.5 degrees.

About the Artists:  Nicky Enright is a multimedia artist and educator whose work has been presented in numerous venues across New York City and beyond. He’s worked in a wide range of formats including audio, video, painting, drawing, and collage, following whatever medium inspires him at the time. “What unites all of the different disciplines in my work are basically themes,” he says—global ideas about migration, borders, identity, and, in cases like this mural, eco-urgency. Born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, he now lives in the Bronx and teaches art to middle and high school students.

For this mural, Enright brought on two frequent collaborators, Brooklyn-based artists and educators Nils Folke Anderson and Olugbala Williams. Anderson’s work has been exhibited widely, including solo shows at Phillips, the Dikeou Collection, and the University of Georgia Athens. Williams has exhibited his art and collaborated on murals throughout the New York area; his mission is to inspire youth and adults to use their creativity to effect positive change in the world today.

Enright also signed on six high school and college students as interns for this project, a team they’ve dubbed “The Goldeneyes”: Emily Peña, Sarah Carmel, Sydney Dutta, Olivia Weller, Oliver Goldstone, and Cyrus Anderson. 

  • Peña is a rising freshman at Denison University from Westchester, New York. She aspires to be a neuroscientist, and as an artist, is excited to share her passion for environmental justice with the Riverdale community through this mural. 
  • Carmel is a rising 11th grade student from New York City. When not painting or drawing, Sarah can be found in a pool; she thinks birds are beautiful and that art should make you feel something. 
  • Dutta is a rising 12th grade student from Tenafly, New Jersey. She enjoys playing upright bass, electric guitar, and (a little bit of) banjo. She thinks birds are underappreciated and that art should invoke change. 
  • Weller is a rising 12th-grade student from New York City. Her passions include art, music, playing volleyball, and spending time with friends and family. She thinks birds are symbols of joy; she thinks art is magical. 
  • Goldstone is a rising 11th grader from New York City. He enjoys swimming as well as teaching others how to swim. He thinks birds are an important part of the ecosystem and the mural is helping to bring attention to some neglected species.
  • Anderson is a rising sophomore at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) from Brooklyn. He mainly works with sculpture but also likes to draw. He loves birds and this mural was a perfect way for him to experiment with large-scale painting.

(Watch the mural come to life in this time-lapse video.)

Sponsored by: Studio Delaj, KRVC, National Audubon Society

Special thanks to: Volunteers Nathan Kwon, Jerico Eleazar, Iheoma Ejiogu, Izzy Gasparro, and Frances Thom, Gitler&_____, Allway Tools, Riverdale Country School, An Beal Bocht Café, Manon Slome, Lee Michel, Betsy S. Michel, the Cuddy Family, the Duval Family, Carrie Elston, Dorey Butter, the Richmond, DAAR,  Rolen Bagels, and the Riverdale Main Streets Alliance.