Birding in the naturally beautiful Garden State offers a variety of environments: from coastal lands to forested valleys, there’s something for everyone here.
- Common Birds — Wild Turkey, Canada Goose, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Moorhen, American Coot
- Rare Birds — Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Purple Gallinule, Boreal Chickadee, Common Redpoll, White-winged Crossbill, Red Crossbill, Lark Sparrow, Pink-footed Goose, Ross’s Goose, Osprey
- Environment of New Jersey — Forests, coastal lands, beaches, rivers, lakes, valleys
- Best Time for Birdwatching Travel — The migration seasons are certainly the best and busiest birding times (early spring and autumn), but there are plenty of year-round opportunities here
Top 5 New Jersey Birding Trails
If the idea of birding in the Garden State is appealing to you (you know it is!), then take this opportunity to peruse the top 5 bird watching trails/areas in New Jersey, listed below.
Flat Rock Brook Nature Center
This 150 acre natural woodland preserve is among the very last surviving sections of the historical Palisades Forest. The property used to be made up of two separate parks owned and operated by the city, but they were united in 1988 and are now managed by the Flat Rock Brook Nature Association.
Flat Rock Brook features three and a half miles of trails that wind in and around the center, taking the hikers and birders through woodlands and meadows and over streams and ponds.
If you are only able to explore Flat Rock Brook Nature Center for a short time, head straight for the Red Trail, a beautifully scenic pathway that ambles through the property and ends at the wonderfully serene Mac Fadden’s Pond. Among the many species of bird you’ll be able to see on this trail and others at Flat Rock Brook are: Great Horned Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, and Black-capped Chickadee.
Visit the official site of Flat Rock Brook Nature Center
Stow Creek Bald Eagle Nest
The Stow Creek Bald Eagle Nest viewing area is exactly what it sounds like, but it offers a whole lot more than you think. The viewing area was established to keep tabs on a pair of breeding Bald Eagles that had made a home in New Jersey at a time when their numbers were dangerously low. And the refuge has proved to be a highly successful one–the pair have reportedly raised over 30 eagles of their own!
The Bald Eagles are certainly the main attraction of this birding hotspot–there’s a ton of information posted on sign boards detailing the history of the eagles there, if you’d care to learn more–but they aren’t the only flyers worth looking out for. Other species frequent the Stow Creek Bald Eagle Nest (or at least the areas AROUND the nest…).
Some of the other species of bird you can see at Stow Creek include: Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks, egrets, wrens, sparrows, and blackbirds aplenty!
Dix Wildlife Management Area
If you’re tired of feeling crowded and claustrophobic in excellent, but over-popular, birding hotspots, find your way to the Dix Wildlife Management Area, a bit of a hidden blossom in the beautiful Garden State. Dix WMA is composed of fields and woodlands over marshes, making it a diverse feeding, breeding, and resting spot for a great variety of bird species.
If you feel like setting your sites on a Bald Eagle or two, just take a hike along the old dike, otherwise you can fill up your catalogues and sketch books with a wide array of birds along the WMA’s various trails. Some of those birds include egrets, herons, Snow Geese, American Goldfinches, wading birds, and water fowl.
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
Protecting more than 47,000 acres of New Jersey’s coastal lands for the breeding and feeding of resident and migratory birds, the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge is an important part of America’s hopeful legacy of protecting the natural world.
Along the coastal wetlands of New Jersey, the Atlantic Brant and the American Black Duck made their home long ago. Unfortunately, these two species have been experiencing big losses in population due to a variety of factors. The Forsythe NWR is responsible for a great many different bird species who need a haven in this densely populated state, but its main purpose is the aid and preservation of the Atlantic Brants and American Black Ducks.
There are plenty of opportunities to catch sight of these amazing species and many more if you get the chance to visit the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
Visit the official site of Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve
Established in 1978 by the Congress as the United States’ very first National Reserve, the New Jersey Pinelands are another important piece of the preservation jigsaw, helping to create a lasting picture of natural beauty in our very populated, very industrialized country.
The New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve extends across seven counties in the southern region of the state, and includes over two-thirds of a million permanent residents within its borders. But between the cities and hamlets and occupied houses and divisions, the Pinelands offer gorgeous views of eastern forests and incomparable opportunities to set your binocular sights on some of the state most fabulous flyers.
Visit the official site of New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve
About the State of New Jersey
New Jersey is a pretty small state, but it sure is packed with people! The Garden State is the single most densely populated state in the country, with plenty of big cities and “bedroom towns” (for those living in Jersey but working in New York City). But even with such a claustrophobic statistic plastered to its back, New Jersey still has a great many wilderness areas and quiet, peaceful, enchanting natural lands full of glorious flora and fauna.
According to historians, the region of New Jersey was inhabited for nearly 3,000 years by native tribes before it became the 3rd member of the United States in 1787. This long history of reverence for the land has been honored to this day with more than a dozen preservations, conservation areas, refuges, and forests protected by the National Parks Service.
But there’s still no denying that New Jersey is a bustling state, full of plenty of commerce, people, and traffic, traffic, traffic. But don’t let this be a tally mark on the “con” side of your list! Instead, think of it as an opportunity! New Jersey can be a great destination for families whose members are not unanimously in love with all things birding. The spouse or the kids can find plenty to do on the beach, in the city, or at the mall, while you and the others travel to the wilds of New Jersey for some truly excellent bird watching ops.
Special thanks to Dan Murray from BirdingInNewJersey.com for his assistance on this article.