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

Wildlife and Habitat

Bald eagle. Credit: Bob Quinn

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1933 as a refuge for migratory birds. The Refuge includes approximately 27,000 acres, composed mainly of rich tidal marsh characterized by fluctuating water levels and variable salinity. Other habitat types include freshwater ponds, mixed evergreen and deciduous forests, and small amounts of cropland and managed impoundments that are seasonally flooded for waterfowl use.

Blackwater Refuge is one of the chief wintering areas for Canada Geese along the Atlantic Flyway, which is a major bird migration "highway" along the East Coast. From October through November, as many as 50,000 geese, ducks, and tundra swans stop at Blackwater Refuge. To feed them, the Refuge staff plant grain fields and seasonally flood impoundments for waterfowl use. Up to 20 species of ducks and 250 species of other birds may also be seen here, along with several hundred species of plants, 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, and numerous mammals. Among the mammals are two species that are hunted at certain times of the year: the white-tailed deer and the sika deer (an Asian species). Hunting at the Refuge is a means of recreation, as well as wildlife population control.

Blackwater Refuge is a haven to three recovering species: the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel (watch YouTube video), the migrant peregrine falcon, and the American bald eagle. At this time Blackwater Refuge is host to the largest remaining natural population of Delmarva fox squirrels and is also host to the largest breeding population of bald eagles on the East Coast, north of Florida.

Migrating geese. Credit: Mary Konchar

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Last updated: October 7, 2010