Wildlife at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Maryland's Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was originally established in 1933 as a haven for ducks and geese migrating along the Atlantic Flyway. The Refuge is a popular place during the fall migration when upwards of 35,000 geese and 15,000 ducks can be seen at the Refuge.

Another special feature of the Refuge is the resident bald eagle population. Blackwater hosts over 150 bald eagles during the winter and spotting one from the Wildlife Drive is the highlight of many a visit to the Refuge. In December, bald eagles begin nesting in tall loblolly pine trees. Eggs are laid around mid January to late February, and the eagle pair will return to their large nests every breeding season until the nests are blown down or disturbed. At this time, Blackwater NWR hosts one of the largest breeding populations of bald eagles in the country, and since 2004, the Friends of Blackwater have been broadcasting images from an Eagle Cam located in a loblolly pine tree at the Refuge (also see our Osprey Cam).

Although many visitors come to see the waterfowl, eagles, and ospreys (which are visible in nests along the Wildlife Drive), Blackwater NWR also hosts over 250 species of birds, 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, 165 species of threatened and endangered plants, and numerous mammals that can be spotted throughout the year in the various marshes, forests, meadows, fields, and even the Butterfly and Beneficial Insect Garden behind the Blackwater NWR Visitor Center. Some fortunate visitors even catch a glimpse of the once-endangered Delmarva fox squirrel along the Wildlife Drive.

If you're planning a visit to the Refuge, check out the Seasons of Wildlife page on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Blackwater NWR website to get a sense of what you can see throughout the year. You can also find bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian brochures on their website (also available at the Blackwater NWR Visitor Center).

If you're interested in learning about the nutria eradication project that helped free Blackwater NWR from the invasive nutria, visit the Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project website.