Backyard Birding

Do you enjoy watching the birds at your feeder, but don’t know them all by name? Would you like to help scientists understand more about the birds on our area, so they can help them?

In the time it takes to eat your breakfast or enjoy a nice cup of tea, you can collect critical data that ornithologists and conservationists need to track birds and understand their habits – maybe even protect critical habitat.

Click this link to watch the video of our training session presented by Juanita Hummel and Ashley Yang on February 5, 2018 at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.

Download Training materials: Ashley’s Project FeederWatch Bird Guide: Sourland Edition, Tally Sheet, and Winter Feeder Bird list

Visit to participate

Click here for our Bird Guide

Click here Project Feeder Tally Sheet


WINTER FEEDER BIRDS in the Sourlands


Chickadee sp.*

Tufted titmouse

White-breasted nuthatch

American goldfinch (winter plumage)

Blue jay

Carolina wren

Downy woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Northern flicker

House finch

Mourning dove

Northern cardinal

Dark-eyed junco

Song sparrow

White-throated sparrow*

Brown creeper

American crow

Common grackle

Cooper’s hawk (feeds on the feeder birds!)


(House sparrow)

(Rock pigeon)


LESS COMMON at feeders in the Sourlands

Pileated woodpecker

Yellow-bellied sapsucker

*Purple finch

American tree sparrow

White-crowned sparrow*

Fox sparrow

Eastern towhee     

Sharp-shinned hawk*



Common redpoll**

Pine siskin**

Red-breasted nuthatch**

American robin

Eastern bluebird

Red-winged blackbird

Yellow-rumped warbler

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Wild turkey


Bird names  in bold italics show significant sexual dimorphism in their winter plumage

Some birds provide a special ID challenge.  These include:

Chickadees – I recommend that all chickadees in the Sourlands be reported as Chickadee sp. (for “species”).  Here in the Sourlands we are in the intergrade zone where the southern Carolina Chickadees come into contact with the northern Black-capped Chickadees, and many of the birds now being seen in this zone are hybrids.   It is tricky to differentiate a Black-capped from a Carolina anyway, and the hybrids further confuse the issue.

White-throated sparrows – occur in two distinct color morphs.  One is the classic bright white throat with yellow lores, the other is much duller and browner, with a more grayish throat.  Either morph can be male or female, and either can be an adult or a hatch-year bird.

Starlings, House sparrows and Rock pigeons are in parentheses because they may or may not come to your feeder.  In the deep woods, House sparrows and Rock pigeons are rare, and starlings rarely seen except during times of heavy snow when it’s tough to find food.  People who live in suburban developments or on farms will be much more likely to see these birds year round, and will undoubtedly recognize them!

Purple finch and House finch are easily confused.  Purple finches are winter nomads, and don’t turn up every year, tending to stay more in the north when there is plenty of food there, whereas House Finches are common year-round.

White-crowned sparrows – immature birds are big sparrows, like the adults, but have brownish stripes on the head instead of the white and are streakier all over.

Sharp-shinned hawks may turn up at feeders as well as Cooper’s hawks (although the latter are more common).  Telling the difference between the two can be tricky, and if in doubt the term “accipiter” should be used.  These hawks rely on other smaller birds to survive during the winter.  It is not nice to watch a hawk take one of your feeder birds, but that is normal and natural!  They will not take a lot of birds from one place  – it takes them forever to pluck and eat just one, and they do hunt over a large territory. They mostly take plentiful ground-feeding birds like doves and juncos.  Blue jays are another favorite meal.  These little hawks themselves are of special concern in NJ due to declining populations.

** Can turn up, sometimes in large numbers, in years when the pine seed crop in the boreal forest has failed.  Most years you won’t see them.

Robins, bluebirds and red-wings typically don’t patronize feeders unless special food like live mealworms (very expensive!!) are provided, although they may come looking during snowstorms, attracted by the other birds who are finding food.

Robins, American bluebirds and Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) warblers, among with other birds, will be attracted by berries and fruits on plants in the landscape, especially natives like holly, wild grapes, poison ivy, sumac, etc.– think about planting some of your winter bird feeders!