Stories in New Jersey

Fall Migration in Cape May

The South Cape May Meadows
The South Cape May Meadows Each fall, migrating songbirds, hawks, monarchs and more funnel into southern New Jersey’s peninsula in great numbers. © TNC
Each fall, migrating songbirds, hawks, monarchs and more funnel into southern New Jersey’s peninsula in great numbers. Here's a sampling of who to look for at our South Cape May Meadows Preserve right now.
Northern Saw-whet owl
Northern saw-whet owl Northern saw-whets are some of the smallest owls in the world. © Megan Lorenz

Banding studies conducted in Cape May Point have documented the importance of the Atlantic coast as a fall migration route for these diminutive raptors. 

Monarch Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly Every September and October, monarch butterflies stop in Cape May before continuing their 2,000 mile migration to Mexico. © TNC/Chris Helzer

Though monarch population numbers continue to vacillate, monitoring groups are cautiously optimistic about Cape May’s 2018 crop of butterflies.

American Woodcock
American Woodock In Autumn, large numbers of American woodcock congregate in the woodlands and thickets of the South Cape May Meadows Preserve. © Fyn Kynd/Creative Commons

American Woodock feed heavily on earthworms to build up their body-fat reserves before crossing the Delaware Bay and continuing south.

Common Loon
Common Loon The common loons we see in New Jersey are likely migrating from eastern Canada. © Shutterstock

Common Loons leave the northern lakes that serve as their summer breeding grounds and head down the Atlantic coast. They eat fish and are agile swimmers, but they are also speedy in the air—they’ve been clocked flying at more than 70 mph!

 

Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker The northern flicker is one of the few North American woodpeckers that is strongly migratory. © Shutterstock

Each fall, Northern flickers travel south from Alaska and Canada. Unlike other woodpeckers, northern flickers prefer to dig for—and eat—ants from the ground.

Green-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal During migration, look for green-winged teal in shallow wetlands and marshes. © Shutterstock

Green-winged teal will “dabble” with other duck species, but can be differentiated by their small, compact bodies that float high out of the water. 

Tree Swallows
Tree Swallows Iridescent blue tree swallows migrating to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. © TNC

Tree swallows can form enormous flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands of birds, which have been known to darken the skies of Cape May in the Fall.

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon In power-diving from great heights to strike prey, the peregrine falcon may reach 200 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest bird species in existence. © Shutterstock

Peregrines are found on every continent except Antarctica, and the Atlantic Flyway is one of their known migratory paths.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler Yellow-rumped warblers travel in large flocks from the northern reaches of Canada every winter, flooding the southern US, Atlantic coastline, Mexico and Central America. © TNC/Damon Noe

Yellow-rumped warblers love the shrubby habitats of New Jersey’s coast like those found in Cape May.

American Kestrel
American Kestrel The American kestrel is the smallest and most common falcon in North America. © Shutterstock

Some of these fierce raptors will migrate south from Canada, but some take up year-round residence in the lower 48 states. They can frequently be spotted along mountain ridges, on telephone poles and scouting for prey (predominately large flying insects) from high in treetops.

South Cape May Meadows Preserve
South Cape May Meadows The Meadows is home to 200 acres of critical habitat in the globally renowned birding hot-spot of Cape May, New Jersey. © Erika Nortemann

Cape May is such a legendary and productive hotspot that you can find doorstop-sized books written about birds and birding on this tiny peninsula. 

Fall migration is a must-see in Cape May, expect to see a wide variety of migrants from September through November.