As the weather gets warmer, migrating birds – and birding enthusiasts – flock to New Jersey. Bring your binoculars and see what you can find at these birding hotspots.
This spring, watch as 400 acres of woodland come to life at Princeton’s Institute Woods (map), an annual destination for migrating warblers. These tiny winged creatures come in a flurry of colors: blues, yellows, browns and more.
Located along the edge of the Pine Barrens, Parvin State Park in Pittsgrove is teeming with wildlife, thanks to its array of habitats. From its shaded pine forests to its swamp hardwood forest to its rippling waters of Parvin Lake, Muddy Run and Thundergust Lake, this breathtaking natural area beckons outdoor enthusiasts and birders alike. While you’re here, spot gnatcatchers, barred owls, Louisiana waterthrush and plenty of warblers.
To spot beach birds along the Jersey Shore, head over to the five-mile barrier beach of Sandy Hook, where low vegetation offers coverage for an array of birds, such as white-throated sparrows, dark-eyed juncos and loons. Springtime means you’ll be able to see migrating birds, including late-leaving winter species. Meanwhile, if you time your visit just right, low tide is an ideal time to spot shorebirds scouting for food along the mud flats on the Sandy Hook Bay side.
Near the Highlands, the Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary in Bernardsville boasts a wide breadth of environments: fields, floodplains, hardwood forests and streams. These diverse habitats welcome a variety of birds, from robins and bluebirds to hawks and blackbirds. Along with more than 60 species nesting annually, this vast natural habitat is also one of the best spots in New Jersey to see spring land bird migration, as flocks stop here to rest and eat along their journey.
For prime Cape May birding, plan a visit to the 200-acre South Cape May Meadows nature preserve, located along the southwest tip of the peninsula. Dunes, meadows, freshwater wetlands and beaches are home to beach-nesting birds, shorebirds and waterfowl, as well as migratory raptors.
Another option is to explore the Meadowlands, which features 32 square miles encompassing the Hackensack River watershed, located along the Hudson River on the New Jersey-New York border. Here, you can walk along developed trails, paddle along the waterways or visit the staffed nature centers, all while taking in views of shorebirds or raptors, with the New York skyline in the backdrop.
Looking to attend a workshop or special event? The New Jersey Audubon offers a lineup of special events around birding, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned professional. From introductory birding classes to guided evening walks to preschool programs for learning about animals, the online events calendar includes an array of programming for all levels. Meanwhile, knowledgable birders will flock to Cape May on in May, when teams will compete in the prestigious World Series of Birding to see how many birds they can spot in a 24-hour period.