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My column: A Free North Jersey Checklist

IMG_0678 (4)My new "Bird Watcher" column features a new checklist that makes it easier to keep track of your sightings of backyard birds in North Jersey.

The list includes hyperlinks to information and photos for each species when you open it on your computer.  There's even room for a few more species.

You can download the pdf  and print it out or use it on a laptop:

Download Bird Watcher checklist spring North Jersey - Small (Light)(2)

With this file, you should be able to add and subtract species as the spring progresses.

Download Bird Watcher checklist spring North Jersey use this one

Email me at [email protected] and let me know what you think. (Carolina Wren photo by Barbara Dilger.)

Here's the column:

By Jim Wright

Special to The Record

 If you’re like me, you enjoy keeping track of the species you see when you’re bird-watching from your window. Before you know it, you’re finding lists of backyard birds in drawers and pockets everywhere -- scribbled on the back of envelopes, old receipts and sundry notepads.

 The trouble with these lists is they’re all over the place figuratively as well. I jot down the birds’ names in no particular order, and sometimes my printing is so hurried I can’t even read them. There’s no reason for this odd compulsion except, perhaps, some prehistoric listing gene makes me keep records of bird sightings.

 No more. Last week, after discarding my latest piles of bird lists, I reached an epiphany: Why waste all that time and paper writing down the same bird names over and over? Each time, I was reinventing the avian wheel.

Then I recalled that many nature preserves offer free checklists of birds that visitors can use to keep track of the birds they saw and the dates when they saw them. 

The checklists were especially helpful when I was unfamiliar with the birds in that area. At least I had a starting point to figure out what species it was instead of thumbing through my field guide in hopes of finding the right bird.

I asked myself, “Why not work with some friends and create a similar bird checklist for our own yards, only simpler?” I realized that while I was at it, I might as well compile a list on a pdf that anyone in North Jersey could download for free and apply to their own yard.  

So that’s what I did.

I know what some are thinking: You use eBird to keep track of your sightings, so why do you need an old-school checklist? 

If you’re like me, you still compile your lists on paper first. (To make that task easier, I created my new checklist in the same order as the eBird list.)

 The pdf includes hyperlinks to information and photos for each species when you open it on a computer. This digital list also helps new birders figure out what they’re likely looking at. 

Can you tell the difference between an American crow and a fish crow? Uh-uh?  Then use the list’s hyperlinks on your computer to learn more. 

By early May, the white-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos will head north. In their stead, you can add Baltimore orioles or yellow-rumped warblers, and so on.

To download the free checklist on my nature blog, go to Then use it on your computer or print it out. Either way, you’re good to go.

Email me at [email protected] and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear about ways to improve the list. 

I will update the list from time to time, so let me know of other often-seen species I should include.


The Bird Watcher column appears every other Thursday.