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Birding in Delaware’s Wetlands

Written on: May 8th, 2019 in Wetland Animals

Atlantic Flyway (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Atlantic Flyway (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

by Erin Dorset, Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program

Birding is always exciting in Delaware. While some bird species are year-round residents, many others are migrants traveling along the Atlantic Flyway. This keeps things interesting, as it allows birders to see a very wide variety of species throughout the year. A lot of these awesome birds exist in or near wetlands in Delaware, which makes wetland habitats great places to go birding!

Where are the best places in Delaware to see birds in wetland habitats?

Here are some of the best sites to see birds in wetlands in Delaware (though this is not an all-inclusive list). For each place, we describe location, wetland habitat types, and how to get around. This will hopefully help you find the best locations that suite your birding interests!

Tidal marshes and mudflats at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Tidal marshes and mudflats at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Smyrna

Wetland habitat types: tidal marshes, impoundments, mudflats

Description: This large refuge is probably the most well-known birding spot in the state. While there are some short walking trails and some observation towers at Bombay Hook, most of the refuge can be explored along a 12-mile driving loop. There are many places to pull off of the driving loop to look for birds in the wetlands.

Additional info: Click here to learn more about birding at Bombay Hook and see the map of the refuge. Also, view the refuge bird checklist for more details about what time of year you are likely to see different species.

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Milton

Wetland habitat types: tidal marshes, impoundments, mudflats, forested wetlands

Description: Prime Hook is another large federal refuge that can be explored on walking trails, by driving, or by a canoe trail. It is the site of a large restoration project that was designed to rebuild degraded tidal wetlands, which means that birds should benefit from the project!

Additional info: Check out the refuge map. Also see the bird checklist for more details about what time of year you are likely to see different species.

Little Creek Wildlife Area

Location: Dover

Wetland habitat types: tidal marshes, impoundments, mudflats

Description: This is a state wildlife area that is made up of several tracts of land.

There are several parking lots and boat ramps, most of which require you to have a Conservation Access Pass (CAP). While there aren’t any designated walking trails, you can stop along roadsides, or view birds from a boat or a wildlife viewing tower. Note that hunting is permitted here.

Additional info: Check out the map of the wildlife area.

Gordons Pond at Cape Henlopen State Park

Gordons Pond at Cape Henlopen State Park

Cape Henlopen State Park

Location: Lewes

Wetland habitat types: tidal marshes, impoundments, mudflats, forested wetlands

Description: This state park has many hiking and walking/biking trails throughout many habitat types. Some go through maritime forest and dunes, and others pass by tidal marshes and a large impoundment (Gordons Pond). There is also a nature center at Cape Henlopen, where you can watch a live osprey camera! Plus, volunteers can participate in a hawk watch every spring and fall here.

Additional info: Look at the map of the state park, and check out the park’s birding checklist.

Blackbird State Forest

Location: Townsend

Wetland habitat types: forested wetlands

Description: Blackbird State Forest is quite large; it is made up of 9 tracts of land with about 40 miles of trails. This means there are great opportunities to find birds in and around the forest’s freshwater wetlands! Be aware that hunting is permitted within the forest.

Additional info: See the maps of the state forest tracts

Lums Pond State Park

Location: Bear

Wetland habitat types: forested wetlands

Description: The Swamp Forest trail goes around Lums Pond and through patches of forested wetlands for over 6 miles, providing a great opportunity to see birds that are associated with wooded wetlands! There are also several other trails and a nature center to enjoy.

Additional info: View the map of the state park

Piney Point tract of Assawoman Wildlife Area

Piney Point tract of Assawoman Wildlife Area

Assawoman Wildlife Area

Location: Frankford

Wetland habitat types: tidal marshes, mudflats, impoundments, forested wetlands

Description: This is a state wildlife area that is made up of several tracts of land.

It has several parking lots and boat ramps, most of which require you to have a Conservation Access Pass (CAP). While there aren’t any designated walking trails, you can stop along roadsides, or participate in the auto tour. You can also view birds from a boat or a wildlife viewing tower. Note that hunting is permitted here.

Additional info: See maps of the wildlife area tracts

To learn about some more great birding locations in Delaware, including places with non-wetland habitats, see the Delaware Birding Trail.

What birds might you see at these locations?

While these are not all-inclusive lists—and some birds may cross over from one habitat type to another– here are some of the bird species that you might encounter in different wetland habitats in Delaware.

American avocet (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

American avocet (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Tidal marshes

Clapper rail; Virginia rail; Marsh wren; Seaside sparrow; Saltmarsh sparrow; Great blue heron; Snowy egret; Great egret; Willet; Least bittern; Northern harrier; Osprey; Common moorhen; Sora; Glossy ibis; Forster’s tern

Mudflats

Semipalmated sandpiper; Least sandpiper; Sanderling; Semipalmated plover; Greater yellowlegs; Lesser yellowlegs; Black-necked stilt; Ruddy turnstone; Dunlin; Short-billed dowitcher; Red knot; Willet

Impoundments, ponds, or pond edges

Mallard; Northern shoveler; Green-winged teal; Blue-winged teal; Northern pintail; Gadwall; Bufflehead; Canada goose; Tundra swan; Snow goose; American black duck; Ruddy duck; Black-crowned night heron; Yellow-crowned night heron; Green heron; Great blue heron; Common moorhen; Least bittern; Red-winged blackbird; American avocet

Cerulean warbler. Image credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cerulean warbler (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Forested wetlands

Wood duck; Cerulean warbler; Louisiana waterthrush; Warbling vireo; Yellow-throated vireo; Prothonotary warbler; Kentucky warbler; Yellow-throated warbler; Barred owl; Eastern screech owl; Great-horned owl; Wood thrush; Northern flicker; Downy woodpecker; Red-bellied woodpecker; American woodcock

Put on some boots, grab a field guide, get out those binoculars and start birding!  Want to contribute to bird conservation efforts? Submit your birding checklists to eBird today!



Delaware Wetland Management & Assessment Program
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