New Jersey Bird Identification

New Jersey Bird Identification
New Jersey may be small, but the diversity of its wildlife habitats presents the bird watcher a prime environment in which to observe and identify birds. In fact, the World Series of Birding has been held in the shore community of Cape May every year since 1984. Raptors, such as bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and ospreys, can be found in the state, and with over 1,900 miles of coastal and tidal shoreline, the Garden State provides the birder with an abundance of shorebirds to identify, like red knots, ruddy turnstones and sanderlings. Even your own yard is habitat to numerous birds, many of which are readily familiar as frequent visitors to backyard feeders.

Instructions

Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Binoculars Bird identification guide Pen and pad (life list) Camera (optional)
  • Binoculars
  • Bird identification guide
  • Pen and pad (life list)
  • Camera (optional)
Step 1
When it comes to which raptor most veteran birders would like to see, the bald eagle has to be near the top of the list, and when a nesting pair has been discovered, bird watchers are sure to break out the spotter scopes. In a given habitat, nests are usually located in the tallest tree that is closest to the water. Because bald eagles often use the same nest year after year, observing them can be simple. Nesting pairs of bald eagles are found in 17 of New Jersey's 21 counties, with many of these nests located along the Delaware, Cohansey and Maurice rivers in the southern part of the state.

While the bald eagle is quickly recognized by its white head and tail, other raptors like ospreys and hawks are often identified by their size, color and the marking of their wings, particularly the undersides--the part most visible to birders as the birds glide overhead.
Step 2
New Jersey is an excellent place to observe shorebirds such as red knots, ruddy turnstones and sanderlings. In late May, on their way from wintering grounds in South America to their breeding grounds in the Arctic, these birds make a stopover in the Delaware Bay area to feast on horseshoe crab eggs that provide the energy necessary to continue their long trip. All three species are smallish (approximately 7 to 11 inches), and the ruddy turnstone is most identifiable by its harlequin patterns of elongated diamonds and squares, while the red knot is known for its brownish color and reddish breast. The sanderling is brown, with a white wing stripe. Many shorebirds' feathers become considerably pale in winter, taking on a whitish color. Cumberland and Cape May Counties on the Delaware Bay are well-known place to observe these shorebirds.

Other birds found in coastal environments include fish and crustacean-eating herons and egrets, most identifiable by their long necks, thin legs and pointed beaks.
Step 3
The habitat around your own home is a haven for backyard birds, many of which are easily identifiable by their color and song. Northern cardinals with their red plumage and blue jays with their blue feathers--and trademark call--are birds nearly everyone has seen in their backyards. Robins, of course, are known by their rust-colored breast, and song sparrows can be identified by their small size, brown coloration and often musical voice. Setting up a feeder outside a window allows for closer and lengthier observation of these species for more accurate identification, and it just might lead to the sighting of an eastern goldfinch--the state bird of New Jersey.

Tips & Warnings

 
Wait for nature to come out around you. By talking quietly, standing still and wearing clothes that blend in with the surroundings, you will soon see birds fly past, emerge from nests and wade out to feed. Record your sightings by writing them down in a log, describing the bird identified, date and time of day, location and any other information you may choose. A bird watching log is known as a life list, and long-time birders have been known to keep life lists that include thousands of different species from around the world. Taking photographs of birds you observe can also serve as an additional record. As you become more interested in bird identification, you may want to purchase a spotter scope and tripod for closer observation, or a hearing magnification device for bird calls and songs. As always, when observing birds in their natural habitats, be a responsible outdoor steward and never disturb them, especially any nests, eggs or live young.
 
Wait for nature to come out around you. By talking quietly, standing still and wearing clothes that blend in with the surroundings, you will soon see birds fly past, emerge from nests and wade out to feed.
 
Record your sightings by writing them down in a log, describing the bird identified, date and time of day, location and any other information you may choose. A bird watching log is known as a life list, and long-time birders have been known to keep life lists that include thousands of different species from around the world. Taking photographs of birds you observe can also serve as an additional record.
 
As you become more interested in bird identification, you may want to purchase a spotter scope and tripod for closer observation, or a hearing magnification device for bird calls and songs.
 
As always, when observing birds in their natural habitats, be a responsible outdoor steward and never disturb them, especially any nests, eggs or live young.

Article Written By Paul Weidknecht

Paul Weidknecht’s non-fiction has appeared in "Outdoor Life," "Yale Anglers' Journal," "Fur-Fish-Game," "Snowy Egret," and elsewhere. His fiction has appeared in "Clapboard House," "Potomac Review" online, "Stone's Throw" magazine, "The Oklahoma Review," and "Freight Train" magazine. He lives in northwest New Jersey. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Muhlenberg College.

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