Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Endangered Species Thrive in the Meadowlands

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

I have been very fortunate over the years to be able to introduce countless people to the incredible diversity of bird species that flourish in the  Meadowlands.  Many species of this vast array of the Meadowlands avian world, to the disbelief of most participants, are considered threatened or endangered in the State of New Jersey.“

But Don,” as the question usually begin, “if those birds are really endangered how come I see so many of them here?”  The simple answer:  “It’s the Meadowlands.”

The New Jersey Meadowlands is a thriving urban wetland ecosystem that contains unique habitats within the many diverse bionetworks that make up its parks and natural areas. A success story just as extraordinary and dramatic as the return of the Bald Eagle or the Peregrine Falcon,  both of which now breed, hunt and thrive there.

All made possible by State and Federal agencies and legislation like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act signed into law more than 40 years ago. Today, we all get to enjoy the incredible results of all those people that thought enough and worked hard enough to do the right thing.

During a stroll through places like DeKorte Park or Mill Creek Marsh, you may be privileged enough to enjoy a Peregrine Falcon or Northern Harrier grace the skies overhead.  Closer to the ground a Savannah Sparrow forages along the paths and trails, and along the banks a Black-Crowned Night Heron hunts like it has for eons, all these species threatened or endangered.

Long-eared Owls seek refuge in the cedars and Short-eared owls may return come winter. Even a Barred Owl still can find sanctuary in the woods of the Meadowlands. The American Kestrel, with its dwindling numbers, still hunt over the fields and meadows just as the Black Skimmers fly the waters in formation to the thrill to all who are lucky enough to witness them.

Birds like the American Bittern, Yellow Crowned Night Heron and Pied-billed Grebe can also be seen by those who care to take the time to search out these vanishing birds. The Osprey once again thrives in our Meadowlands and now the master of the Meadowlands skies, the American Bald Eagle, patrols the air since its return to its ancestral home.

Make no mistake, even though the Meadowlands can at times give us a skewed view of these species they are still very much threatened and are still in great need of our help and protection.

The New Jersey Meadowlands is an incredible life giving place for New Jersey’s endangered and threatened species. These incredible creatures  are doing  their part to hang on and survive. Now we need to continue to do our job to be sure they will still have a chance.

We can all work to make sure the Meadowlands and places like it are preserved and protected for future generations and laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act are never diminished.

For more info and the state of New Jersey’s Threatened and Endangered wildlife go to

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