Birding in Cape May

By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader

This month, Cape May, NJ has been a great place to see out-of-place birds.  Topping the list was an Ivory Gull that came to town.  Ivory Gulls usually stick to the Arctic, following Polar Bears around and eating their leftovers and even their droppings.  Rarely are they seen south of Labrador.  It is like the Snowy Owl of the gull world.

On December 4th, I traveled to NJ to see the Ivory Gull and some of the other great birds that were there.  I rarely “chase” birds, but the Ivory Gull was sticking around faithfully to one location and is a bird I really wanted to see.  It was purely a pleasure trip, but a lot of fun, so I thought I would share a little movie I made of the birds we saw, featuring the Ivory Gull.  Changing ice and marine-life patterns, coupled with increasing competition from other seabirds and predation near its nesting areas may be contributing to its decline, and are thought to be by-products of global warming.

As you watch the movie, try to pick out the Eurasian Wigeon, which has a rusty head.  This species is a rare but regular visitor from Europe.  There was a decent hawk-flight that day, and Turkey Vultures were kettling like Broad-winged Hawks.  At the end, the waterfowl got spooked and took flight.  It turned out that a Great Black-backed Gull scared them and actually tried to pounce on a duck.  The Great Black-backed Gull is quite predatory, and will try to capture live prey if they can.

2 thoughts on “Birding in Cape May”

  1. Great movie, thanks for sharing.

    The Great Black-backed Gull actually has a nickname, “Cooter”! The local birders in Cape May have witnessed this same gull and his preference to eating American Coots. Whenever he flies over, the ponds usually empty in quick fashion!


  2. Bill, I’ve seen that before in North Carolina where a couple seemed to be working together to scare and scatter the coots. They looked like they were trying to pounce on them, grab them, and drown them.

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