Fall Bird Migration in Cape May
Banding studies conducted in Cape May Point have documented the importance of the Atlantic coast as a fall migration route for these diminutive raptors. Migrating raptors usually fly over broad fronts but can become concentrated by landforms, like the peninsula that creates the southern tip of New Jersey. Passing raptors hesitate to cross the Delaware Bay, slowing their progress, and resulting in large concentrations of raptors in the Cape May area.
On their journey south to Mexico, monarch butterflies stop in Cape May County for a few weeks, numbering in the tens of thousands! Migration runs from September to October, peaking in the last weeks of September. The Garrett Family Preserve is a great place to spot monarch butterflies, as the preserve fills with goldenrod come late August. This nectar-bearing perennial is a vital food source for monarchs during their migration. Though monarch population numbers continue to vacillate, monitoring groups are cautiously optimistic about Cape May’s 2018 crop of butterflies.
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!
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 will “dabble” with other duck species, but can be differentiated by their small, compact bodies that float high out of the water.
Yellow-rumped warblers love the shrubby habitats of New Jersey’s coast like those found in Cape May.
Tree swallows are very social birds and during migration 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. They supplement their insect diet with berries and can be seen landing by the masses on bayberry trees at our South Cape May Meadows Preserve. They will usually land and begin flying again in unison, causing massive clouds of birds!
Peregrines are found on every continent except Antarctica, and the Atlantic Flyway is one of their known migratory paths.
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.
Visit Our Cape May Preserves This Fall
Cape May is a fall migration hot spot, and our South Cape May Meadows and Garrett Family Preserves are located in the heart of the migration action, making them havens for migrating songbirds, raptors, pollinators and more!
This area 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.
Help us protect these lands and waters so that generations to come of people and wildlife can enjoy them and benefit from the clean water, air and habitats.