Every summer, millions of tourists descend upon southern New Jersey’s Cape May peninsula for a bit of rest and relaxation. But beginning in the fall, when the crowds move out, a new set of visitors flock to the area: hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. In fact, the fall bird migration is one of the area’s signature tourism events.

The Cape May National Wildlife Refuge is renowned for its spectacular winged migrations. Each year millions of shorebirds, songbirds, and raptors, including the piping plover, least tern, red knot and Cape May warbler, converge on Cape May to rest and feed along its shores and wetlands. Today, those birds have more room to stretch their wings.

Saving Land From Development

The Fund has helped add nearly 500 acres to Cape May NWR. In December 2008, as part of a 437-acre deal facilitated by the Fund, Cape May NWR acquired more than 370 acres of grasslands, salt marshes and forestlands along Bidwell Creek, a tributary of Delaware Bay. Bordered almost entirely by the refuge’s existing protected lands and faced with the threat of development, this property ranked as a high conservation priority. Cape May County acquired an additional 66 acres, contiguous to the property, for passive recreation and wildlife habitat. Prior to this addition, we worked on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire nearly 25 critical acres of coastal marshlands as an addition to the refuge’s Two Mile Beach.

Globally Significant Important Bird Area (IBA)

In 2011, the Delaware Bay coast in New Jersey was named a Globally Significant Important Bird Area (IBA), becoming one of only 149 in the United States. What does this special designation mean? A panel of experts has identified the land as critically important to birds, particularly the red knot and ruddy turnstone, ensuring conservation efforts can be focused in the area. Learn more about the designation here. Read about how the Delaware Bayshore gained this recognition here.

In addition to the 360 species of birds that inhabit the 11,000-acre Cape May NWR, more than 30 different mammals and 45 varieties of reptiles and amphibians call this area home, making it a popular wildlife-viewing destination. Many of these species need large areas of unfragmented habitat to thrive, and protecting these 437 acres creates a large contiguous block of land where wildlife can roam.

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Places We Save: Wild Havens