Delaware Wetlands logo
WMAP Blog


Delaware Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program


Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  Pinterest  YouTube  RSS Feed

wetland-animals

Meet Your Tidal Marsh Birds

Written on: December 12th, 2017 in Wetland Animals

by Erin Dorset, DNREC Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program

Tidal salt and brackish marshes are amazing wetland places that are home to many unique plant and animals—including some really cool wetland birds. Many birds depend on salt and brackish marshes for food, shelter, and nesting areas. Some of these birds are large and easily seen, while others are small and secretive—you many not even know they are there.

Read on to meet some of the amazing birds that use salt and brackish marshes, and next time you’re by the coast, look and listen to see if you can spot some!

Great blue heron. USFWS

Great blue herons

In Delaware:  year-round

These guys are some of the easiest birds to spot in a tidal marsh. They are tall and are bluish-gray overall, and you’ll often see them wading around in the water with their long legs. Their long, spear-like bill helps them catch fish. If you are lucky enough, you may even see one of their rookeries, or breeding areas, during nesting season.


Salt marsh sparrow, National Audubon Society

Salt marsh sparrows

In Delaware: year-round

These sparrows are some of the most secretive birds of the salt marshes. They are fairly small and fly low across the grasses, only to quickly disappear within them. When the males sing, their song is so quiet that it sounds almost like a whisper. They like to make their nests on the ground, often under tufts of salt meadow hay (Spartina patens), to hide them from predators. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open and you might just be lucky enough to spot one of these secretive birds.


Marsh wren and nest

Marsh wren, National Audubon Society, Marsh wren nest, DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program

Marsh wrens

In Delaware: year-round

You will probably hear these little birds before you see them; although they are small, they have a loud and bubbly song, and they certainly aren’t afraid to sing it! Their little brown bodies blend in with the tall grasses of brackish marshes that they like to perch on, often with each leg on two different grass blades. Their nests are off of the ground and are weaved out of grass pieces, creating a sort of elevated basket with a side entrance.


Clapper rail, National Audubon Society

Clapper rail, National Audubon Society

Clapper rails

In Delaware: year-round

Clapper rails are much larger than salt marsh sparrows, but they are still pretty secretive. Their call is a loud “kek kek”, and you’ll often hear it when planes startle them.  They are often hidden in salt marsh grasses, but they do come out to muddy or shallow water areas to feed on crustaceans and small fish. They make their nests out of marsh grasses on the ground, and the nests can be tricky to find.


Willet, National Audubon Society

Willet, National Audubon Society

Willets

In Delaware: late spring-summer (breeding season)

Willets are light grayish-brown birds with bright white marks on their outspread wings. They feed on insects and crustaceans in marshes, mudflats, and along beaches. They make their nests in salt marshes out of grasses, and the nests blend in very well with their surroundings. Their call is often very loud, particularly when they feel their nest is threatened.


Great egret, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Great egret, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Great egrets

In Delaware: late spring-summer (breeding season)

Great egrets are pretty easy to spot in marshes due to their relatively large size and their bright white color. They use their large bill to catch fish as they wade around in mud and shallow waters. Like great blue herons, they nest in colonies. You may also see snowy egrets in the marshes, which are similar in appearance. The tricks to tell them apart are that great egrets have yellow bills and black legs and feet, while snowy egrets are smaller in size, have blackish bills, and have black legs with yellow feet.


Osprey. Photo credit: The BBC

Osprey, The BBC

Osprey

In Delaware: late spring-summer (breeding season)

Osprey are birds of prey that are smaller than the bald eagle, and catch fish right out of the water with their sharp talons. They like to fly over marshes looking for fish in nearby waters, and will often hover in one spot when they think prey is near. Osprey like to nest on tops of dead trees, but they will also readily nest on man-made nesting platforms in salt marshes. Their nests are made of many sticks and are very large and visible, so keep a look out and you might find one.


As you have learned, birds that you see here, and many others, rely on salt and brackish marshes for survival. Unfortunately, many of them are facing trouble as climate change, rising sea levels, and human disturbance negatively affect their nesting and feeding wetland habitat. It’s up to people like you to spread the word to help them and their habitats!

The great news is, there are amazing online resources out there to learn more detailed information about these and other coastal marsh birds and the dangers they are facing from habitat changes. You can even become a citizen scientist and record your bird observations for scientists to use to help these birds out. Here are a few wonderful resources to learn more, have fun, and participate in marsh bird conservation:

uncategorized

Survey Says: Delaware Wetlands now has New Year’s Resolutions

Written on: December 12th, 2017 in Outreach

by Alison Rogerson, DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program (aka Delaware Wetlands) Curious as to what Delawareans think about wetlands? In September of this year we polled 600 Delaware residents across our three counties to find out.  We wanted to see if people knew what wetlands are, their benefits, if they think they are good […]


Read More

wetland-assessments

“Groundwater outcrops”: Wetlands associated with springs and seeps

Written on: December 12th, 2017 in Wetland Assessments

Guest Writer: Tom McKenna, University of Delaware Groundwater discharge areas are common hydrologic features in Delaware’s Piedmont Province, located in hilly northern New Castle County. Discharge occurs as springs or seeps. (A seep can be described as simply a spring with discharge through the very small openings between soil or sediment grains. In reality it […]


Read More

wetland-restorations

Prime Hook NWR Marsh Restoration – Early Evidence of Success

Written on: December 11th, 2017 in Wetland Restorations

Guest Writer: Susan Guiteras, USFWS Project history If you have an interest in Delaware wetlands, chances are you’ve heard about the management challenges and subsequent tidal marsh restoration at Prime Hook NWR, near Milton. For many years, two large areas encompassing about 4000 acres of the refuge were managed as freshwater impoundments. Beginning in 2006 […]


Read More

wetland-assessments

Tidal Freshwater Wetlands

Written on: September 19th, 2017 in Wetland Assessments

You may already be aware that saltwater wetlands are influenced by ocean tides, and that freshwater wetlands located further inland are not influenced by tides. But, did you know that there are freshwater wetlands that are actually still influenced by the ocean’s tides? These wetlands, commonly called tidal freshwater wetlands, are in some ways similar […]


Read More

wetland-animals

Delaware’s Crayfish

Written on: September 19th, 2017 in Wetland Animals

Did you know that Delaware has multiple species of crayfish? While crayfish may look like small lobsters, they are actually distant cousins. The most differentiating feature is that lobsters live in saltwater, and crayfish, crawfish, crawdads, or whatever you would like to call them, live in fresh to brackish waters. Some crayfish species living in […]


Read More

wetland-assessments

Blue Carbon – a benefit to protecting tidal wetlands

Written on: September 19th, 2017 in Wetland Assessments

Guest Writer: Kari St.Laurent, Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve Wetlands are more than just a beautiful photo opportunity. If you are a reader of this blog, you are probably aware that tidal wetlands can protect shorelines from storm surge, reduce nutrients, and provide habitat for critters like shellfish, crabs, and fish. These benefits are collectively […]


Read More

wetland-restorations

NVF-Yorklyn Cleanup and Redevelopment – an unprecedented partnership

Written on: September 13th, 2017 in Wetland Restorations

Guest Writer: John G. Cargill, IV, DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship/Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances The National Vulcanized Fiber (NVF) plant located in Yorklyn, Delaware has a rich history with humble beginnings in grist, snuff, lumber, and cotton. By the mid 1800s, production in the valley shifted to paper, and by the early 1900s […]


Read More

beneficial-use

Beneficial Reuse of Dredge Material on a Tidal Marsh

Written on: May 24th, 2017 in Beneficial Use

What is one way to give a marsh a lift with the challenge of rising seas? Spray the muddy material that has been dredged up from the bottom of a creek in a thin layer on top of the marsh. But how much mud is too much, and can the plants survive? These are a […]


Read More

wetland-assessments

Keeping an Eye on the Rising Tide: SSIM

Written on: May 24th, 2017 in Wetland Assessments

Coastal wetlands are a hallmark feature of the Delaware’s Bayshore, making up about 23% of all wetland types in the state. Because of the many beneficial services these wetlands provide, such as wave energy reduction, the survival of coastal wetlands is an important part of protecting our seaside communities from threats associated with the changing […]


Read More

Delaware Wetland Management & Assessment Program
+