Review: The Birds of New Jersey

Here is a beautiful book with a simple purpose, providing up to date status and distribution information for birds in New Jersey and the surrounding region. The Birds of New Jersey: Status and Distribution by William J. Boyle is a real winner in my book. It doesn’t try to be a one stop bird book, rather it finds a small niche and really nails it.

The subtitle of status and distribution really describe the point of the book. The book starts out with the standard introduction, explaining the point of the book, how the records committee in New Jersey works, and some basic terminology. The bulk of the book is a concise description of occurrence and distribution of each species that has been recorded in New Jersey. The book is very easy to read, written in a style that makes it easy to page though many accounts in one sitting without feeling overwhelmed. I have included an account below to illustrate Boyle’s style.

California Gull Larus californicus

Accidental. There are just three records of this vagrant from western North America, but it may occur more frequently than evidence suggests due to its similarity to Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. The first two were accepted on the basis of detailed written descriptions of the birds seen on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River opposite the huge, Tullytown, PA, dump that attracts many thousands of gulls in the winter. The most recent record was a near adult photographed on the beach at Cape May on the surprising date of 28 June 2007; there are summer records for nearby states.

  • 12 Mar 1997, Florence, Burlington Co. (NJBRC 1997-016)
  • 10 Nov 2001, Florence, Burlington Co. (NJBRC 2002-046)
  • 28 Jun 2007, Cape May, Cape May Co. (NJBRC 2008-011)

The book also features an impressive number of photos of the rare records mentioned. Most of the photographs were taken by Kevin Karlson and are remarkably good for being record shots. There are also 13 pages in the center of the book that are filled with photos of the rarer species.

One thing I thought was missing was further discussion on some of the subspecies that are easily identified and show up in the state in different proportions or at different times of the year. Other than that, I think this is a great book and very worth buying. If you spend time birding in New Jersey, I highly recommend The Birds of New Jersey: Status and Distribution.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Princeton University Press.