Backyard Birding 101

Jan 24, 2022

Tips from Tedor Whitman, the Executive Director of the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary in Short Hills.

As those who attended Mr. Whitman’s excellent presentation on Backyard Birding in New Jersey know, our feathered friends need us now more than ever to survive. Here are some recommendations he shared:

Bird seed

It’s important to get quality calories to the birds so spend a few extra dollars to give them the most support:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds, especially to attract cardinals
  • Safflower seeds, peanuts (dry roasted, not salted), white millet
  • For small finches: Nyjer seed—also commonly known as niger or thistle seed
  • For woodpeckers: suet

Sources for bird seed

Best place for bird feeders

Best place for online beginning birding classes


  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project Feederwatch has a lot of information on bird feeders, foods, and how you can help monitor local bird populations.

Field Guides

  • National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds – Eastern Edition
  • Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America by Roger Tory Peterson
  • The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds by Richard Crossley

Best Binoculars

  • Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 (about $250-$300)

    There are better, more expensive binoculars out there but they are best for those who are either professional birders or plan to use them for decades. The best way to buy them is to go to a store that sells birding binoculars and try the different brands and styles. Try to find a place that is interested in getting you the right binoculars rather than the most expensive brands.

    NJ Audubon does a good job with binoculars at their Cape May and Scherman-Hoffman centers, and online. Their staff work hard at getting you educated about what type of optic works best for you. If they don't have what you're looking for they will often try to help you find your optics at other places.

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