New Jersey has many areas across the state that offer unique birding experiences. The real New Jersey is much different from the image of New Jersey that is conveyed through television and media. The Delaware River and Bay of New Jersey offer a wide array of bird habitats and natural areas. There are approximately 299 bird species that can be viewed along the Delaware River.
Located at the meeting point of the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Cape May is a birding paradise. Migratory birds gather at Cape May when north and southbound. Spring and fall brings extensive days for birding, with trees and shrubs full of birds. Thousands of raptors can be seen migrating past Cape May State Park during the months of September and October.
Heislerville Wildlife Management Area
If you are interested in waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, gulls, and terns, a great birding location is Heislerville Wildlife Management Area. Marshes and wetlands exist here, inviting shorebirds like Semipalmated Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, and Short-billed Dowitcher for birders to view. Other birds that may be seen here include:
- Red-breasted Merganser
- Hooded Merganser
- Ruddy Duck
- Snow Geese
Glades Wildlife Refuge
Another good birding site on the Delaware Bay is located at the Glades Wildlife Refuge. Here, waterbirds are the common sighting, but there are other birds that inhabit this area. Birdwatchers can see Kentucky Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Summer Tanager sometimes.
Delaware Bay Ferry
Crossing the Delaware Bay by ferry in late March and early April offers visitors a birding opportunity that is quite dramatic and unique. Northern Gannets are northward migrating at this time of year and you can watch them diving into the water to eat fish. Other bird species that you can see here are:
- Black-legged Kittiwake
Looking for Bald Eagles?
The Delaware River serves a very important role in the existence and proliferation of bald eagles. The river is one of the largest bald eagle wintering habitats in the Northeastern United States. The river has even been declared as an essential bald eagle winter habitat and preserving this essential habitat has been deemed necessary for the recovery and survival of the bald eagle as a species. Most of the bald eagle nests in New Jersey are reported to be in the southern part of the state, within twelve to thirteen miles of the Delaware River and Bay. There are now 161 confirmed pairs of bald eagles in New Jersey. Some specific bald eagle areas where sightings have occurred include:
- Delaware River near Trenton Thunder Riverview Park – Juvenile bald eagles
- Cumberland County & Salem County (forty percent of the confirmed eagle population is found here)
- Mannington Township of Salem County
- Stow Creek Bald Eagle Nest Viewing Platform – Canton, NJ
Finally, the annual Winter Eagle Festival is held in early February in Mauricetown, New Jersey. Festival attendees have the opportunity to join in walks to spot bald eagles in the Delaware Bay area.