Best New Jersey Birding Spots – Perfect for Photography

Contrary to popular belief, New Jersey offers amazing opportunities to see and (ethically) photograph some of North America’s most beautiful bird species, from up north in the Meadowlands to down south in Cape May.

The rare bird alerts, eBird database, social media groups, and countless bird clubs serve as resources to help get beginning birders out into the Garden State, embracing their inner bird nerd.

Birding is an exciting way to explore nature and take better care of yourself. It helps to keep us present and mindful. Looking for a particular bird, in a particular spot, at a particular time gives us the space to free ourselves of our worries and focus on being present outdoors.

Birds in Gateway National Recreation Area (Sandy Hook)

A barrier island carved out in Monmouth County, Sandy Hook boasts several different habitats: ocean beach, coastal marsh, bay, and maritime forest, among others. This unique array of areas brings with it a large diversity of birds!

Here are a few spots to check out:

  • Plum Island
  • The Spermaceti Cove boardwalk
  • The Horseshoe Cove saltmarsh
  • North Pond
  • The fields at the main post area
  • Fisherman’s Path on North Beach.

Monmouth County Audubon Society offers free walks on Sandy Hook, and New Jersey Audubon Society organizes hikes for a small fee.

New Jersey Birds to see in Sandy Hook:

  • Piping Plovers
  • Ospreys
  • American Oystercatchers
  • Black Skimmers
  • Northern Gannets
  • Terns
  • Gulls
  • Kinglets
  • Wrens
  • Herons
  • Egrets
  • Waterfowl

 Raptor Birds to see at Sandy Hook:

  • Northern Harriers
  • Bald Eagles
  • Peregrine Falcons
  • Red-tailed Hawks
  • Sharp-shinned Hawks
  • Merlins
Birds of New Jersey Field Guide

New Jersey is a bird watchers paradise! We have our wonderful native birds and are treated to a parade of migratory birds twice a year along our coastline. This book covers one hundred and twenty-two species, making it a lot easier to see if that bird at your feeder is a red-bellied woodpecker or a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Read It!
We earn a commission if you purchase at no additional cost to you.

Birds in Cape May

Photo Credit: Lindsay McNamara

National Geographic lists Cape May as the World’s Best destination for birding. The narrow peninsula at Cape May acts as a bird funnel, bringing in songbirds during their spring and fall migrations. You never know what you may find! And it’s just as fun to visit in the winter.

Here are a few spots to check out:

New Jersey Birds To See in Cape May:

  • Purple Martins
  • Killdeer
  • Kingbirds
  • Orioles
  • Herons
  • Warblers
  • Swans
  • Scoters
  • Egrets
  • Ospreys
  • Terns
  • Gulls
  • Swallows
  • Wrens
  • Hummingbirds
  • Woodpeckers
  • Flycatchers
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Indigo Bunting
Don’t Miss A Thing! See & Capture Birds with Your Phone!
Get A Closer Look!
HD Binoculars with Phone Adapter & Tripod
Pros:
  • Tripod Included
  • Use with Phone for Pictures
  • Carrying Case
Check Price
We earn a commission if you purchase at no additional cost to you.
Easy For Travel
Monocular Telescope with Smartphone Adapter & Tripod
Pros:
  • One-Hand Only
  • Tripod Included
  • Use with Phone for Pictures
Check Price
We earn a commission if you purchase at no additional cost to you.

Birds in Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (Basking Ridge)

Photo Credit: Lindsay McNamara

Nestled in Morris County, Great Swamp is an absolutely beautiful birding spot. Here, you can walk along boardwalks enveloped by trees and surrounded by swamp sounds. The refuge consists of 7,768 acres of varied habitats, and the refuge has become an important resting and feeding area for more than 244 species of birds.

Discover More Wildlife Refuges

Fox, deer, muskrat, turtles, fish, frogs, and a wide variety of wildflowers and plants can be found on the refuge too. You can also check out The Raptor Trust during your trip, a wild bird rehabilitation center with resident raptors that you can visit.

New Jersey Birds to see in the Great Swamp:

  • Great Horned Owls
  • Barred Owls
  • Warblers
  • Nuthatches
  • Herons
  • Egrets
  • Kingfishers
  • Flycatchers
  • Woodpeckers
  • Swallows

The Meadowlands (Bergen, Hudson counties)

Photo Credit: Lindsay McNamara

The Meadowlands is a breathtaking spot consisting of 8,400 acres of wetlands stretched along the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers, near Newark Bay: a real gem in the urbanized area of North Jersey! Bergen County Audubon Society leads free walks throughout the Meadowlands all year long.

Hackensack Riverkeeper also runs pontoon boat tours occasionally from River Barge Park. There is no better way to see the Meadowlands than by boat!

Where You See Birds:

New Jersey Birds to see in the Meadowlands:

  • Egrets
  • Herons
  • Goldfinches
  • Rails
  • Bitterns
  • Osprey
  • Terns
  • Swallows
  • Waterfowl
  • Raptors
  • Wrens
  • Gulls
  • Sparrows
  • Shorebirds

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Galloway)

Photo Credit: Deb Stone

Arguably, if you visit any birding spot in New Jersey, it should be Forsythe NWR, known as “Brig” to birders. Located in Atlantic County, every day is an incredible birding day at Brig. You could see upwards of 70 bird species in one visit.

The refuge comprises over 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats, actively managed for migratory birds. The refuge is in one of the Atlantic Flyway’s most active flight paths, making it an essential link in seasonal bird migration.

You can also bird by car here, driving along Wildlife Drive throughout the refuge.

New Jersey Birds in Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge:

  • Egrets
  • Herons
  • Rails
  • Bitterns
  • Osprey
  • Terns
  • Swallows
  • Waterfowls
  • Raptors
  • Wrens
  • Gulls
  • Sparrows
  • Shorebirds

Birds in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Sussex, Warren Counties)

You may have hiked the red and blue dot trails of Mount Tammany, but have you birded the Water Gap? The interesting landscapes and landforms throughout the Gap provide excellent bird habitats.

Over 260 species have been identified throughout the National Recreation Area, utilizing the river and stream corridors and the forests, ridges, ravines, fields, and grasslands of the Water Gap.

Here are a few spots to check out:

New Jersey Birds to see at the Delaware Water Gap:

  • Warblers
  • Flycatchers
  • Thrushes
  • Sparrows
  • Warblers
  • Pheasants/Grouse
  • Vultures
  • Turkeys

Raptors to see at Delaware Water Gap:

  • Bald Eagles
  • Golden Eagles
  • Peregrine Falcons

Birds in Island Beach State Park

In Ocean County, Island Beach State Park is another barrier island along the Jersey coast. Stretching 10 miles between the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay, the park consists of over 3,000 acres of coastal dune, beach, thicket, freshwater wetlands, maritime forest, and tidal marshes. Stop into the many restaurants and shops of Long Beach Island on your way.

The state’s largest Osprey colony lives in IBSP. The Park is also an excellent spot for winter birding.

New Jersey Birds to see in Island Beach State Park:

  • Ducks
  • Eiders
  • Scoters
  • Shorebirds
  • Sandpipers
  • Gulls
  • Loons
  • Gannets
  • Cormorants
  • Herons
  • Egrets
  • Woodpeckers
  • Kinglets
  • Thrushes
  • Finches/Crossbills
  • Sparrows

Raptors in Island Beach State Park:

  • Snowy Owls
  • Northern Harriers
  • Sharp-shinned Hawks
  • Cooper’s Hawks
  • Red-tailed Hawks
  • Peregrine Falcons

Mercer Meadows (Lawrence Township)

Part of the Mercer County Parks System, Mercer Meadows is an excellent birding spot in Central Jersey. The Park boasts over 1,600 acres of woods, open meadows, young forest, shrublands, lakes, marshy areas, and small brooks through which the Stony Brook flows.

A spot to check out: Pole Farm

Raptors to see in Mercer County:

  • Short-eared Owls
  • Northern Harriers
  • Hawks

New Jersey Birds to see in Mercer Meadows:

  • Woodpeckers
  • Kinglets
  • Flycatchers
  • Warblers
  • Thrushes
  • Sparrows
  • Songbirds

Thompsons Beach (Heislerville)

There are ways to get out along the Delaware Bayshore throughout Cumberland County and much of South Jersey. The area contains salt marsh, woodland, beach, dune, and tidal river habitat. The Bayshore region is a critical migratory stopover for shorebirds, supporting the second-greatest shorebird congregation in North America.

Thompsons Beach is an incredible spot for marshland birding and spotting species along the Atlantic Ocean coastline.

New Jersey birds to see at Thompsons Beach:

  • Raptors
  • Federally-listed Red Knots
  • Ruddy Turnstones
  • Plovers
  • Sandpipers
  • Short-billed Dowitchers
  • Whimbrels
  • Willets
  • Sparrows
  • Rails
  • Herons
  • Egrets
  • Waterfowl
  • Wrens
Birds of New Jersey Field Guide

New Jersey is a bird watchers paradise! We have our wonderful native birds and are treated to a parade of migratory birds twice a year along our coastline. This book covers one hundred and twenty-two species, making it a lot easier to see if that bird at your feeder is a red-bellied woodpecker or a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Read It!
We earn a commission if you purchase at no additional cost to you.

Duke Farms (Hillsborough Township)

Situated in Somerset County, Duke Farms offers excellent birding and significant environmental education programming. Sitting on more than 1,000 acres of property, Duke Farms offers various birding habitats: lakes, vernal pools, meadows, farmland, and forests.

According to eBird data, over 215 bird species have been spotted at Duke Farms. While you’re there, you can also visit their Orchid Greenhouse and Red Bridge.

New Jersey Birds to see at Duke Farms:

  • Raptors
  • American Kestrel
  • Red-tailed Hawks
  • Northern Harriers
  • Shorebirds
  • Sparrows
  • Woodpeckers
  • Blackbirds
  • Bluebirds
  • Ravens

Find Birds Across The Entire State of New Jersey

The author’s local patch. Photo Credit: Lindsay McNamara

If you are interested in birds but don’t see an area near you listed, consider visiting New Jersey Audubon Society‘s website to find centers, sanctuaries, and hawk watches throughout the state. Also, consider birding a “local patch” or area within walking distance from your home. You’d be amazed at how well you get to know your patch and how rewarding it is to observe seasonal changes.

Birds of New Jersey Field Guide

New Jersey is a bird watchers paradise! We have our wonderful native birds and are treated to a parade of migratory birds twice a year along our coastline. This book covers one hundred and twenty-two species, making it a lot easier to see if that bird at your feeder is a red-bellied woodpecker or a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Read It!
We earn a commission if you purchase at no additional cost to you.

A generous, knowledgeable community of Jersey birders helped to put this list together. There are over 30 other spots that we would be happy to share with you. Feel free to reach out to the author Lindsay McNamara for more information. Good birding!

You may also be interested in…

3 Responses

  1. Beautiful images and some great information! Thanks, Lindsay! I love going to The Hook but don’t get there as much as I used to. I have been shooting all kinds of birds for years but am rather partial to egrets and herons, oh, and raptors…. I checked out your Instagram – nice stuff, I just followed.

    1. Thank you so much, Joe! I am also partial to egrets, herons and raptors. Have you been on the half-day Sandy Hook field trips that NJ Audubon does? I think they are starting up again on Fridays!

      1. Lindsay – I haven’t heard about the Audubon field trips, I will have to check them out. Weekdays are tough because I am stuck in an office but might be able to take off a Friday or two. Thanks for letting me know.

Anything To Add?