Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Birding in Delaware
Birdwatching in Delaware Rates Among the Best
Thanks to its strategically ideal location along major waterways in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region, Delaware is not only a convenient and picturesque destination for millions of East Coast travelers, it is revered around the world as a center for watching the thousands of rare songbirds, shorebirds and raptors that live in and migrate through the Delmarva Peninsula.
Foremost among these bird-watching paradises is Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge along the Delaware Bay, recognized as one of America’s Top 100 “Important Birding Areas” by the American Bird Conservancy.
Just to the north in the middle of the Delaware River, Pea Patch Island is home to one of the largest and most diverse heronries on the East Coast, boasting nesting pairs of Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and many more colorful varieties. The island is also home to Fort Delaware, the well-preserved Civil War prison that’s a quick and enjoyable ferry ride from Delaware City.
Delaware’s coast is the scene of one of nature’s most unique rituals: First there’s the mass spawning of Horseshoe Crabs, prehistoric creatures that come ashore to bury vast numbers of eggs in the sand. Then, by the thousands, hungry Red Knots, Sanderlings, and Sandpipers fly in to gorge on the eggs, replenishing their depleted reserves of energy before continuing their amazing journey from Latin America to Arctic breeding grounds.
Thanks to the state’s mid-latitude location, Delaware also boasts four very distinct birding seasons, giving watchers an endless procession of migrants arriving and departing year-round, ranging from the songbirds of the hilly, forested Piedmont, to the shorebirds of the coast. “Birding the hills along our northern border, you could almost imagine you were in upstate New York, or northern Pennsylvania,” notes the Delaware Birding Trail website. “Yet only 70 miles away, amid our sandy pine flatlands, you might feel like you were in the Carolinas.”