Wildlife & Habitat

  • American Black Duck

    American black duck - Bill Wallen.

    American black ducks have been observed using Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge year-round. The ducks congregate within Farm Creek, which provides highly suitable sheltered emergent wetlands. This preserved habitat is especially important for black ducks since the species is suffering from loss of breeding and wintering grounds throughout their range. Similar looking to hen mallards, black ducks are slightly larger and darker brown. Black ducks are also very sensitive to human disturbance and flush easily. Please be aware of potential impacts if you spot this species in the waters of Featherstone NWR.

  • Downy Woodpecker

    Downy woodpecker - Cindy Kreticos.

    Downy woodpeckers are the smallest and most widespread of woodpecker species. They are found at the refuge year-round. “Downies” are often seen foraging for insects, seeds, and berries in trees. They use their sharply pointed bill to excavate tree bark and capture food with their sticky, long barbed tongue. In addition to feeding, their pointed bill is utilized in creating their breeding cavities within rotting trees. It can take a Downy up to 16 days to create a breeding cavity where the female will lay 3 to 8 eggs. Look for these small, black and white woodpeckers on your visit.

  • Muskrat

    Muskrat - Bill Wallen.

    The tidal marshes of Featherstone provide great habitat for populations of muskrat. Muskrats are large, semi-aquatic rodents that are dark brown with long, flattened tails. They are aptly named, due to the musky odor they can produce. Muskrats feed on the leaves, roots, and tubers of marsh vegetation, especially cattails. They collect food during the spring and summer to store for winter when most of the vegetation becomes dormant. Look for a foraging muskrat within the marshes of Featherstone on your visit.

  • Tidal Freshwater Wetlands

    Emergent tidal wetland - USFWS.

    A large portion of Featherstone Refuge is tidally influenced freshwater wetlands. Tidal freshwater and emergent marshes provide habitat for several rare plant species and important breeding habitat for many bird species, including the least bittern and Virginia rail. Common plant species include wild rice, arrowarum, dotted smartweed, and pickerelweed. The forested wetlands are comprised of red maple, sweetgum, yellow poplar, and water willow and a popular spot to view beavers.

  • Upland Forest

    Upland forest - Bill Wallen.

    The refuge’s upland forest features mature oaks, yellow poplars, and red maples at or near climax stage with Virginia and loblolly pine. These large bottomland hardwoods provide habitat for woodland warblers and nest cavities for pileated and red bellied woodpeckers, barred owls, and prothonotary warblers. Areas bordering Neabsco Creek consist of steep slopes with an understory of mountain laurel. White-tailed deer browse on forest vegetation alongside red fox, raccoons, gray squirrels, and other small mammals.