Wildlife & Habitat
Each summer, up to 2,000 bald eagles migrate north from southern breeding grounds to the Chesapeake Bay Region, a phenomenon unknown in other parts of the country. More than 230 individual eagles, the highest density on the James river, roost on refuge lands. The proximity of ideal roosting trees to the River's excellent foraging habitat creates this spectacular wildlife phenomenon at the refuge.
Breeding bird surveys, begun in 2000, have found an interesting assemblage of warblers and other songbirds. Among them are hooded warbler, pine warbler, prothonotary warbler, Acadian flycatcher, red-eyed vireo, and ovenbird. Nearly 50 species were recorded during the surveys, which are conducted in May and June.
Aside from eagles and songbirds, numerous raptors (hawks and owls) nest and hunt on the refuge. Populations of American wild turkey also enjoy the thick forest cover and hilly terrain of the James River Valley. Water birds (herons, egrets, ospreys, ducks, and geese) make use of the tidal waters that define a portion of the refuge boundary. Feathered animals are not the only ones that utilize the river and creeks. Alewives, American Shad, blueback herrings, gizzard shad, hickory shad, and striped bass find ideal spawning and nursing sites in this part of the James River watershed.
Mammals observed on the refuge include beaver, muskrat, red fox, cottontail rabbit, grey squirrel, opossum, and white-tailed deer.The refuge is rich in upland hardwood forest species such as elm, gum, and oak. Softwood loblolly pine remains in large tracts as a result of previous land uses. Plant species of particular importance include prairie senna, sensitive joint vetch, and Long's bittercress. All three plants are globally rare and are candidates for listing as endangered species.