Nature and Science Events
New Jersey's diverse habitats attract hundreds of different species
From the ocean and saltwater marshes of the coast to the pine
and hardwood forests of the north, millions of birds make a home
or at least a brief migratory stopover in New Jersey. Northern
New Jersey is particularly interesting due to the many different
ecoregions found there.
In the Northeastern coastal plain are the meadowlands , a brackish,
swampy area, where egrets, Great Blue Herons and many other wading
birds thrive. Rare birds to the northeast are found here such
as the American Avocet. Traveling westward,
Sparrows and House Finches rule the roost of the suburban, bedroom
communities. In the Northwest corner of New Jersey, Chickadees
and Tufted Titmouse are very common through the forests and farmland.
Some archeologists believe birds to be the descendants
One of the best ways to find out which birds are in your area
is to set up an outdoor bird feeder. Different birds can be attracted
by experimenting with the types and mixtures of seed you fill
your bird feeder. Smaller birds are attracted to millet and hemp
seed while larger birds such as Blue Jays and Cardinals prefer
safflower and sunflower seeds.
Squirrels also like seed and can eat quite a bit in a short time.
Squirrels can destroy a birdfeeder in minutes that is not sturdy
enough. Many types of squirrel deterrents are available including
seed with cayenne pepper. Squirrels will avoid seed with cayenne
pepper, but birds are not affected by it. Another type of shield
is a domed physical barrier placed on top of the feeder. Other
squirrel shields include a metal cage around the feeder or weight
sensitive doors which close the feeder when a squirrel triggers
Male and female Blue Jays are similar in appearance.
Blue Jays are common visitors to bird feeders in New Jersey.
They are easy to spot because of their blue color. They are approximately
12 inches (~29 cm) in length. Both sexes are similar in color;
blue crest, blue wings and tail with white-spots, and a gray-white
breast. The Blue Jay has a black "necklace" and black
striping on the tail.
With their sharp, black beaks and apparent aggressiveness, Blue
Jays can dominate the birdfeeder when they arrive. Blue Jays are
attracted by Sunflower and Safflower seed. Blue Jays are omnivores
and their diet ranges from acorns and sunflower seeds to frogs
and snails. They often visit feeders in search of suet and birdseed
and are fond of bathing in birdbaths. Nests are built in the crotch
of a tree and are rather bulky and made of leaves, dry grasses,
and bark. The breeding season occurs from April to July and the
female lays 3-5 eggs which are olive or pale green and spotted
with brown and gray*.
Blue Jays are in the family Corvidae, along with crows and magpies,
and are very clever birds. Experiments with captive birds have
shown that they are capable of counting, are good at solving puzzles,
and quickly learn to associate noises and symbols with food*.
Male Cardinals are brightly colored while the female (bottom
right) and young are a brown, buff color with red accents.
Cardinals are usually thought of as being bright red birds, but
females and young are noticeably different. The female is a brown/brown
gold with red on the wing tips, tail and tip of the crest. An
adult male Cardinal is a bright red crested bird. They both share
a heavy, orange bill with a black mask from the base of bill to
the eyes. A juvenile Cardinal is similar to the female but lacks
the black mask, the red at the tip of the crest, and has a darker,
almost black bill. Adult Cardinals are slightly smaller than Blue
Jays at about 9 inches (~20 cm) in length. Cardinals have an unusual
trait in that both male and female have birdsong. In most temperate
climate bird species, only the male sings. Another interesting
fact is that the female cardinals appear to learn more songs faster
Cardinals share the same family as finches and can be attracted
to bird feeders with Sunflower and Safflower seed mixes.
Male and Female Black-Capped Chickadees are similar in appearance
Black-Capped Chickadees are common visitors to birdfeeders and
are attracted by sunflower seeds and suet. Chickadees forage over
twigs and under tree bark for insect eggs, ants, beetles and caterpillars.
They will also eat wild fruit. Chickadees are in the same family
as Tufted Titmouse (see below).
Chickadees are usually no larger than four to five inches; small,
curious, and relatively tame. The Chickadee is white breasted
with gray wings and long grey tail having a distinctive black
"cap" and "bib". Chickadees travel in gangs,
so if you see one at your birdfeeder, there are probably more
lurking nearby. Chickadees and other members of their family are
very acrobatic and can put on quite a show.
The call of the Black-capped Chickadee is one of the most complex
vocalizations in the animal kingdom. Depending on slight variations
in the phrases, the call can convey separate, unique messages:
in addition to acting as a contact call or as an alarm call, chickadees
also use their call to relay information about an individual's
identity or to indicate that they recognize a particular flock.
These birds are cavity nesters, meaning they utilize a hollow
of a rotting tree to lay their 5-7 white eggs that are dotted
The female American Goldfinch differs from the male by its
color and lack of a "black cap".
During the spring and summer months, the male Goldfinch is immediately
recognizable by it's bright yellow color with black wings. During
the winter months, the Goldfinch loses it's bright colors but
is still easy to identify by it's black wings with white bars.
The female is olive-yellow and lacks a black cap. The Goldfinches'
distinctive colors give it the nickname "wild canary".
Finches belong to the family Fringillidae, taken from the Latin
word fringilla, meaning "small bird". These birds are seed eaters
and Some of their preferred seeds include thistle, golden rod,
and sunflower. Goldfinches live together in flocks.
The goldfinch builds a typical cup-shaped nest of tightly woven
materials which is attached to a small twig. The female lays 4-5
unmarked, pale blue eggs*.
The White-Breasted Nuthatch is easy to spot as it usually
climbs down tree trunks headfirst
The Nuthatch is quite an acrobat and can spotted characteristically
climbing down trees headfirst. Males and females are similar,
although the male has a darker cap on it's head. The white-breasted
nuthatch is 5-6 inches long with a wingspan of 10 inches.
Nuthatches range throughout most of North America and feed on
insects, seed and nuts. They can be attracted by sunflower seeds
Nuthatches spend most of their time in large trees or woodlots
eating insects in the spring and summer and nuts such as acorns
and sunflowers in the fall and winter*.
They nest in natural tree cavities at least 15 feet above the
ground. Nuthatches lay 5-8 white eggs marked with brown, red,
purple, or gray. The White-breasted Nuthatch exhibits an unusual
behavior referred to as "bill sweeping." This bird will pick up
an insect, a piece of fur, or a piece of vegetation in its bill
and sweep the bark around its nest cavity. The purpose may be
to mask its own scent around the nest preventing detection by
predators, such as squirrels.
The Tufted Titmouse is attracted to Sunflower and Safflower
The Tufted Titmouse is a relative of the Chickadee and, like
the Chickadee, travels in little gangs or bands of five or six
birds. Titmice also share the mouse-gray body, but differ in having
a crest, not the black cap of the chickadee. Titmice feed on insects
and berries as well as seeds.
The Tufted Titmouse often chases away birds that are the same
size or smaller at feeders. During the winter, the titmouse hides
food in tree bark crevasses.