Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: The Birds of New Jersey

If you are thinking about compiling a "Birds of (your State here)" book, please take note:  The Birds of New Jersey by William J. Boyle Jr, and photographic editor Kevin T. Karlson sets an all new standard of excellence!

This is not a field guide for identifying birds in New Jersey.  It is a book literally about the status and distribution of each species documented in New Jersey, as indicated in the subtitle.  The text and maps describe when and where these birds have been seen in New Jersey.

Even though this isn't an i.d. guide, there are one to three birds species discussed per page along with an average of one photo per page....beautiful photos taken by popular names like Crossley, Lehman, and Karlson and several others.  I am assuming that all of the photos were taken in New Jersey, even the photos of review species birds.  While else would the Vermilion Flycatcher photo be out of focus?!

What's more, the opening pages acknowledge the importance of eBird!  I wonder how much eBird sightings maps helped contribute to the quality maps contained in The Birds of New Jersey.

The Birds of New Jersey is a very impressive book and will be a treasure to every New Jersey birder and anybody who wants to go birding in New Jersey.  I did ask myself, "What's the purpose or usefulness of a book like this?"  At first, I thought it might just be a novelty item as it is fun to look at, like a fine collection of something cool.  Thinking on it further, I have come to some better conclusions about the useful nature of a book like this.  The Birds of New Jersey is a quality reference book.  It will help those birding in New Jersey to have a better understanding of the status of each species.  Birders reporting rare species will be much better educated.  It will also increase bird awareness in New Jersey.

Now I would love to see this type of book in a companion set; cross-referenced to the birding hotspots of New Jersey.  The great birding locations are mentioned throughout the book, so can you imagine how convenient it would be to have the companion book with maps and information about those birding hotspots?!

I would also like to see books like this produced in a digital format for smartphone apps.  Bird information can become outdated within months.  The digital format would allow purchasers of this book to always have the latest and greatest information available.

Frankly, I'm jealous that none of the states in the intermountain west have a book that can even compare to this.  New Jersey, and specifically Cape May, seems to always be on the leading edge in our birding world, in culture, enthusiasm, technology, and now publications. Good on ya NJ birders!


  1. The "companion book" is in its second edition: Bill Boyle's bird-finding guide
    remains one of the very best of its genre.

  2. @Rick - Very cool! Thanks for the helpful comment.

  3. Boyle's Guide to Bird Finding in New Jersey is pretty much the bible to birding NJ. I frequent many of the spots listed and can attest to their amazing accuracy.

  4. It truly is a great book. Unfortunately, he mentions a pond on my street-- Black River Rd., in Hunterdon County, near Oldwick-- that doesn't seem to exist. He claims one can see "both yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and large numbers of Common Snipe (100+ seen)" on page 97 in the 2008 edition. It was a surprise to read that these shorebirds would exist in farmland, 30 miles inland from the coast. I'm thinking it's a typo, because I have driven past this spot many times and have yet to see a pond, anywherer (unless it is set back on private property, not visible from the road). Can anyone offer some assistance? Is this indeed a typo? You can contact me at Thank you. -Ken

  5. Here's my review of the 2nd edition of Bill Boyle's splendid bfg:

    I don't know whether that pond still exists or not, but all the shorebirds mentioned are common inland in NJ.