How are stopover sites identified?



New Jersey's significant stopover sites


     Habitats or natural communities that consistently provide migrants with the opportunity to refuel and rest during their journey are known as stopover sites.  If the area provides this service to a large number of migrants, the stopover site is considered to be significant and its significance is determined locally, regionally, hemispherically or even globally. 
     Stopover areas may not always be apparent to the casual observer, as they may not concentrate extraordinary numbers of the larger, more visible migrants.  Because of its geographic location within a migratory flyway, New Jersey's habitats and natural communities provide a plethora of varied stopover locations.  Each is critical to the continued survival of migrant species. 
     Major migratory bird corridors follow:
Mountain ridge systems 
     The Kittatinny Ridge, the Central Highlands, the Hunterdon Plateau and the Sourland Mountains are all parts of an ancient system that have been used by migrants as a visual map for thousands of years. The forests along the slopes of these ridges are rich in food resources like insects and fruit. 

River corridors
     The Delaware River, the Hudson River, the Raritan River, the Passaic and Hackensack Rivers all have extensive wetlands and woodlands. The associated riparian (riverside) vegetation has concentrated food sources and also uninterrupted resting areas. 
Barrier islands and coastal marshes
     Almost any forested or vegetated area is likely to meet the needs of migrants. When birds arrive in an exhausted state with little or no fuel reserve, they will feed quickly to strengthen themselves and renew their reserve before moving on to better habitats to accomplish the job of full refueling. 


     Stopover sites depend on habitat.  The use of these sites by migrants also depends on season and prevailing winds. 
     Spring migration is very widespread and migrants tend to follow the north/south ridges unless a significant weather episode pushes the birds elsewhere. Specific stopover sites in the spring include any extensive tract of intact habitat such as:
Wallkill River Valley
New Jersey Highlands
Kittatiny Ridge
Delaware Bayshore
Cape May peninsula

     It will also include more restrictive sites that provide habitat near rivers such as along the Delaware River and the tidal rivers along the Atlantic Coast. Likewise urban oases, or significant tracts of forested habitat in or near urban areas attract a great variety of migrants. Garret Mountain in West Paterson is one of New Jersey's important spring stopover sites.
     Fall songbird migration is mostly a coastal phenomenon as birds get pushed to the shoreline by strong northwesterly prevailing winds. They tend to concentrate in coastal stopover sites because the Atlantic Ocean is a barrier to flight for most of these birds. Fall stopover sites include:
Gateway National Recreation Area (Sandy Hook)
Island Beach State Park
Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
Cape May Peninsula