MAIN MENU

HUDSON COUNTY WILDLIFE

COPYRIGHT 1999

Anthony Olszewski
P.O. Box 3362
Jersey City, NJ 07303
PETCRAFT Web page:
http://www.petcraft.com

THE WILD SIDE
Hudson County is full of wildlife -- no, not the sort that you always suspected of the teenagers that hang out on the corner, but REAL wild life. Just by looking out your window, you can observe many colorful species of native birds. Enthusiasts can identify nearly two hundred distinct types of birds that also call our neighborhoods home. Bird watchers from all over the world flock to Liberty State Park to take advantage of its unique ornithological opportunities. Wild mammals -- Rabbits, Skunks, Squirrels, Muskrats, Opossums, and Raccoons -- scamper about our parks and yards.

Even the most casual `armchair' bird watcher can hope to see Robins, Cardinals, Purple Finches, Blue Jays and Mourning Doves. Robins are about ten inches long. Their backs are brown and the chest, as might be expected, is red. I once saw an attentive pair of parent Robins feeding their young in a nest built in a tree on Washington Boulevard in Jersey City --only one block from Newport Centre! The traffic did not seem to faze these feathered residents of the waterfront. The Cardinal is the same size as the Robin and is completely bright red in color. This bird sports a `cap' of feathers that gives it a particularly jaunty air. Purple Finches are about the same size as the common sparrow and has similar markings. Strange to relate, the Purple Finch is not purple. Rather, it is suffused with red about the head and chest. With these three species, the male is more brightly colored than the female.

The Blue Jay is nearly a foot in length. Here the name plays no tricks on the uninitiated, for the Blue Jay is a bright blue bird. It also has a crest of feathers, as in the Cardinal. With its loud cries, this bird's voice commands as much attention as its pretty color. The Mourning Dove is roughly half the size of a regular pigeon, to which it is closely related. The Dove is light brown with hints of pink. Generally seen in pairs, all doves mate for life. The name is derived from this birds plaintive call, which sounds as if it is consumed with grief.

The rivers and marshes are the homes of hosts of waterfowl. A stroll along the Hudson River in Hoboken may reveal Mallard Ducks, Canadian Geese, herons, and egrets. The Common Egret is a singularly impressive sight. Over three feet in height, this bird's feathers are pure white. Egrets use their long legs to wade about the shore, catching minnows, shrimps, and frogs for dinner.

Hawks and owls also fly over Hudson County. Jogging one day in Jersey City's Pershing Field Park, I enjoyed watching a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks playing tag overhead. These aerial maneuvers scared a local pigeon that flew off in terror. Hawks and owls are birds of prey; they eat other birds, rats, mice, and rabbits.

If you would like to learn more about bird watching in Hudson County, contact:
The New Jersey Audubon Society
9 Hardscrabble Road
PO Box 126
Bernardsville, New Jersey 07924
(908) 204-8998

The Interpretive Center at Liberty State Park has brochures listing the birds native to Jersey City.

On another occasion running brought me familiarity with nature, on almost too personal a level. One night I was bounding along a path in North Hudson Park. Up ahead I saw what seemed to be a three foot long white snake. I knew that there were no white snakes in the wild, especially in New Jersey, so my curiosity was aroused. As I approached, my running shoes skidded to a halt. I was facing a large Skunk! The black fur was invisible in the dark, allowing only the white stripe to be seen, giving it a serpentine look. We stared at each other for a few moments, after which he, somewhat annoyed, walked away into the bushes.

Opossums have become very common in Hudson County in the last few years. Since opossums bear a superficial resemblance to rodents, they are sometimes mistaken for giant rats. Opossums are actually marsupials. This means that they give birth to very poorly developed young. These tiny babies are carried about by their mother in a pouch of fur for an extended period of time. Opossums are really much more closely related to the kangaroos of Australia than to any rat or mouse.

Raccoons are probably the most commonly observed wild mammal, for they delight in raiding garbage cans. With their pretty long fur and cute black masks, you might be tempted to pet a raccoon, or to let your dog or cat play with it. DON'T! Raccoons are wild animals. They have no desire to socialize with people, cats, or dogs. Extremely powerful, with sharp teeth and claws, Raccoons can seriously injure. Recently many Raccoons have become infected with Rabies. This dread disease is potentially fatal to people and pets. Never attempt to handle a Raccoon, or any other wild mammal. Every dog and cat should be immunized against Rabies.

PROBLEMS

If a Raccoon, Skunk, or Opossum is causing damage to your property, or is bothering your pets, call your municipal animal control. Don't try to trap the trespasser yourself. In most cases, it is illegal for individuals to trap wild animals. No matter what, with the risk of disease and physical attack, this is not a `do it your self' project.

If you find an injured wild bird, or a young baby out of the nest , it is not very realistic for you to try to nurse it back to health on your own. This sort of project requires special training, and a great deal of time and energy. Again, in most cases, it is illegal to possess wild birds. The personnel of the Interpretive Center at Liberty State Park