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Birdwatchers’ 15 favorite birding destinations in the U.S. and Canada

2. Cape May, New Jersey

Birding at Cape May — the southern tip of New Jersey — is spectacular for many reasons: hawkwatching, warblers, shorebirds feeding on horseshoe crab eggs, spring and fall migration, wintering waterfowl, spring songbirds, and the people at Cape May Bird Observatory. “They have the most programs, the World Series of Birding, Cape May Spring Weekend, Cape May Fall Weekend, the hawkwatch, and countless opportunities to go along on a walk and to learn,” notes Carey L. Friel of Ottsville, Pennsylvania. “Everyone is helpful and friendly. You feel like you really belong to a special group of people when you are there.”

Though this is certainly true, even observatory staffers would admit that the birds — not the humans — are the real draw. “I have thrilled to the springtime sight of masses of shorebirds and gulls gorging on horseshoe crab eggs on the bayshore beaches,” writes Barbara Brozyna of Toms River, New Jersey. “One time, the entire surface of the beach lifted up, and became a myriad of birds in coordinated flight. They wheeled and circled a short distance out over the bay, then they returned and set down, and became ‘beach’ once more.”

Location: At the extreme southern tip of New Jersey • Best time to visit:September and October for raptor migration, May and early June for shorebirds • Birds: Hawks, warblers, shorebirds, waterfowl, swallows, wrens, sparrows, and buntings • Contact: Cape May Bird Observatory Northwood Center: (609) 884-2736, Center for Research and Education: (609) 861-0700; Cape May Point State Park: (609) 884-2159

“Jerry tallied the hour and cleared the clickers on which he had been recording each bird’s passage. ‘You know,’ he beamed, ‘this was a really good Sharp-shinned flight, the best I’ve ever seen here. I really enjoyed the day.’” — “Hawks Head South” by Clay Sutton and Pat Sutton, Birder’s World, October 1998, pp. 38-42

Originally Published

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at

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