Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
Northeast Region
2145 Key Wallace Dr
Cambridge, MD 21613
(410) 228-2677

Birds at the Refuge

Eagle family on eagle cam. Credit: USFWS

See Recent Sightings on the Waterfowl Survey Report Page

At Blackwater Refuge, the best time for viewing waterfowl is between mid-October and mid-March. Wintering species include tundra swans, Canada and snow geese, and over 20 duck species. The most common ducks found here are mallards, black ducks, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, wigeon, and pintails. Although most waterfowl migrate north in the spring, some remain through the summer, using the protected areas of the Refuge to raise their young. These nesting waterfowl include Canada geese, mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, and blue-winged teal. Other large resident birds include the great blue heron and the bald eagle.

Sightings of bald eagles are fairly common throughout the year, as Blackwater Refuge is the center of the greatest nesting density of breeding bald eagles on the East Coast, north of Florida. The golden eagle is also sometimes sighted on the Refuge.

Over 85 species of birds breed in the refuge woodlands and surrounding habitat. Numerous marsh and shore birds arrive in the spring and fall, searching for food in the vast mud flats and shallow waters of the Blackwater River. Ospreys, or "fish hawks," are common from spring through fall and conspicuously use nesting platforms that have been placed throughout the marsh. Osprey and eagle interactions are entertaining to watch due to the birds' lively competition for fish resources.

The Refuge woodlands provide year-round homes for owls, towhees, woodpeckers, nuthatches, bobwhite and woodcock, and a fast growing population of wild turkeys can be seen. The warmer months invite warblers, vireos, orioles, flycatchers, and many others to this same habitat. Also, recently a flock of white pelicans has been making Blackwater Refuge their winter home, although this is an uncommon species for such a northern refuge.

Osprey family. Credit: Woody Dawson

Blackwater Bird List

View a bird list (3.4MB PDF) highlighting the birds of Blackwater NWR.

Raptor Cams

Visitors interested in the local bird life should take time to visit the Blackwater Refuge Visitor Center, which has bird exhibits, an authentic bald eagle nest, and TV monitors that broadcast live images from a bald eagle nest and osprey nest at the Refuge. On the second-floor of the Visitor Center, visitors will find the "Wild Birds Unlimited Pathways to Nature Observatory," which provides a wonderful view of the marsh, the river, and the local bird life. In addition, the second floor now has a new Birding and Natural History Library.

Note: To view the Blackwater raptor cams on the Internet, visit the Friends of Blackwater website to see the online Eagle Cam and Osprey Cam, which carry the same images as those shown on the TV monitors at the Refuge.

Raptor cams and marsh observatory. Credit: Bob Quinn

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Last updated: October 7, 2010