Wildlife & Habitat

  • Bald Eagles

    Bald eagle - Bob Quinn.

    Blackwater is the center of the greatest density of breeding bald eagles on the east coast, north of Florida, and sightings of bald eagles are fairly common throughout the year. Eagles can be seen soaring and hunting over the marsh or resting near their nests in tall loblolly pine trees along the Wildlife Drive. 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 currently broadcast live images from an osprey nest and waterfowl impoundments at the refuge.

    Learn more about the wildlife cams at Blackwater.

  • Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel

    Delmarva fox squirrel - Mary Konchar.

    The Delmarva peninsula fox squirrel (DFS) is a large tree squirrel that lives in mature hardwood and pine forests throughout the Delmarva peninsula. Though recently removed from the endangered species list, this squirrel is still a rarity on the eastern shore, with Blackwater refuge hosting the largest natural population. Forest management programs at Blackwater are oriented toward perpetuation of this mammal, and the refuge’s ultimate DFS goal is to have its populations sufficiently abundant and well distributed to withstand foreseeable threats. Visitors wishing to catch a glimpse of this steel-gray squirrel are advised to look carefully in the woods bordering the Wildlife Drive, as well as the Key Wallace Trail and Tubman Road Trail, where it can often be seen foraging for food on the ground.

    Results of a 3-year monitoring effort of Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrels

  • Waterfowl Species

    Snow geese in flight - Mary Konchar.

    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 species of ducks. 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.

    View recent waterfowl surveys.

    Learn about the wildlife cams at the refuge.

    Visit Cornell's eBird page for Blackwater to see all the recent bird sightings at the refuge.

  • Brackish Tidal Marsh

    Brackish tidal marsh habitat - USFWS.

    The marsh habitat at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a brackish tidal marsh. Brackish refers to water that is a mix of salt water and freshwater. Tidal marsh signifies that the marsh (an open wetland dominated by non-woody vegetation) is influenced by the fluctuation of tides. Tidal marshes serve many important functions. They buffer stormy waters, slow shoreline erosion, and absorb water pollutants and nutrients before they reach the bay. Tidal marshes also provide vital food and habitat, as well as offering shelter and nesting sites for migratory birds.

  • Moist Soil Impoundments

    Moist soil impoundments - USFWS.

    Open water habitats in the form of twenty-four freshwater ponds (impoundments), totaling 368 acres, have been created on Blackwater NWR. These ponds are maintained and managed to support wildlife and a diversity of plant and animal life, and most importantly serve as a source of fresh water supply. Periodic dredging to maintain pond depth and mechanical or chemical control to treat woody vegetation and other invading species is performed as necessary.

  • Mixed Evergreen & Deciduous Hardwood Forest

    Mixed hardwood forest - USFWS.

    Blackwater NWR’s 8,374 acres of forested habitat contain some of the largest contiguous forests in Dorchester County. The forest is dominated by mixed hardwoods and pine, with loblolly pine the most dominant tree species. Some of the most important trees at Blackwater are oaks. Oaks are a life support system for many animals. Acorns are eaten by many species, including deer, squirrels, mice, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, turkey, quail, bluejays, woodpeckers and waterfowl.