The Importance of Stokes State Forest to Birds

Stokes State Forest is one of the best locations in Sussex County and the state of NJ to observe birds, as well as plants and wildlife. The diversity of habitats within and surrounding the park are attractive to birds, and the Kittatinny Ridge is part of a primary bird migration route within the state. These same large tracts of protected lands, that are important to birds also provide habitat for many endangered plants and animals. Because of these factors, Stokes contains sites designated as both Important Bird Areas and Natural Heritage Priority Sites.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

Important Bird Areas (IBA) are sites, identified by the National Audubon Society, that provide essential habitat for one or more bird species that are either threatened, endangered, or vulnerable due to a restricted range, restricted habitat type/biome, or high densities due to their congregatory behavior. An IBA’s significance is prioritized as either global, continental, or state. Portions of Stokes fall within the globally significant Old Mine Road IBA, as well as the Delaware Water Gap and Valley Macrosite IBA and four other state IBA’s.

Black Vulture Soaring

Natural Heritage Priority Sites (NHPS), identified by NJDEP, are sites critically important to conserve NJ’s biological diversity, with particular emphasis on rare plant species, ecological communities, and endangered species. Sussex County contains 77 NHPS sites (almost 20% of the state’s total). Most of the recommended birding sites fall within the Kittatinny Ridge Natural Heritage Priority Site, recognized by NJDEP as one of the state’s most significant natural areas, and many of these fall within Stokes State Forest.

Many of NJ’s endangered or threatened species can be found within Stokes at some time during the year. Species such as the wood turtle, timber rattlesnake, bobcat, and barred owl are permanent residents of Stokes, while others, such as the red-shouldered hawk and golden-winged warbler, migrate through the area seasonally.

Related links and books for additional information:

Links for IBA and NHPS information: and

General links for bird information and hawk migration:       (post or review bird sightings) (bird rehabilitation and education) (hawk migration association of America) (migration timetables by state)

Recommended field guides and books (some have electronic versions):

The Art of Bird Finding (Dunne)        Bird Finding in NJ (Boyle)

Hawks in Flight (Dunne, Sibley, & Sutton)

Peterson’s Guide to Eastern Birds and Guide to Hawk of North America

Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America

(Donald & Lillian) Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region; Field Guide to Warblers

The Crossley ID Guide           Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs: Eastern Region

Many other field guides & field reference cards available

Contributed by Marianne Ofenloch


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