Don's Jersey Birding: Bergen County Audubon Helps Students Learn About the Flyway

Marie Longo, Education chairperson for Bergen County Audubon Society prepares to help students learn about the Atlantic flyway.
Photos courtesy of Don Torino

By Don Torino  

From Cape May to the Pinelands and from the Meadowlands to the Highlands, New Jersey is one of the best birding places in the nation. And to add, its right smack on the Route 80 of bird migration, the Atlantic Flyway; a course that makes the diversity of bird species that can be seen incredible and you have a birding nirvana for bird lovers everywhere. The Atlantic Flyway is a bird migration route that follows the Atlantic Coast of North America and the Appalachian Mountains. The flyway is a critical pathway for millions of migrating birds each year. But it is also something that is taken for granted, so helping young people understand and appreciate the importance of the Atlantic Flyway is the only way that future generation will recognize why we need to protect it and improve it.

Students from Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Teaneck gather at Teaneck Creek Conservancy to learn about the Atlantic Flyway.

With the help of Bergen County Audubon Society and Jean Myers from Teaneck schools, a teacher that has been instrumental in getting her students interested in the Flyways the students of Thomas Jefferson Middle School visited Teaneck Creek Conservancy and learned first-hand on how important the Atlantic flyway is to the birds that they see every day.

“It is so important for children to get outside and connect with nature as early as possible so that they form a positive relationship with it,” said Marie Longo, Education Chairperson for Bergen County Audubon Society. “And teaching children about the flyway helps them understand that we are all part of a much bigger picture and how and what we do to the environment to which we live can affect future bird populations for years to come.”   

Giving our children an understanding of the environment that they are a part of and depend on, will determine what kind of world we will live in.

Helping young people learn about the Atlantic Flyway and understand what is needed to protect; it cannot come too soon. According to the National Audubon Society’s Atlantic Flyway Initiative Program, forty percent of the Atlantic Flyway’s bird species are species of conservation need.  These include the Wood Thrush, the most widespread of our eastern forest neo-tropical migratory species, whose population has been reduced by half in the past 40 years. With only one-tenth of the U.S. landmass, this Flyway is home to one-third of the nation’s people. And dense population carries with it many challenges for birds and habitat: development and sprawl, incompatible agriculture, overfishing, and climate change.
Beth Goldberg from BCAS who also worked on the project told me, “Giving kids the opportunity to connect with the birds that use our flyway is so important. It allows them to experience sights and sounds that may be new to them. Hopefully it will inspire creativity, curiosity and respect for the natural world around them that will stay with them as they get older and will help them find the knowledge and courage that will help them protect it.”

Map of the Atlantic flyway. 
Photo Credit: AOL

The students learned about the birds that would be using the Flyway and how everything in the habitat is important to their survival, from the native plants that produce berries and attract insects that they depend on to the snakes and mice that are an integral part of healthy habitats along the Flyway. Many habitats in New Jersey have become smaller and more fragmented, helping our children understand that all our natural places from our backyards to our state forests are part of the bigger picture is critical to how they will grow up to understand the environment around them.

More plans to educate our young people on how the Atlantic Flyway is part of our neighborhood environment are in the works. Thomas Berry once said, “Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” Giving our children an understanding about the environment that they are part of and depend on will determine what kind of world we will live in. Everyone, no matter how experienced you are, or how much you know should make a commitment to introduce a young person to nature , it is all we really have.

To find out more about Bergen County Audubon Society’s education programs go to

To read more about National Audubon Society’s Atlantic flyway program go to 


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