Seasons of Wildlife

Brown Pelican on Pea Island by Jeff Lewis

  • Spring


    Grasses and wildflowers green up and trees sprout leaves and begin to bloom during March, April, and May. Early flowers such as Indian Blanket color the refuge landscape. Shorebirds replace waterfowl in drained moist soil management units. Neotropical songbirds return from the West Indies and Central and South America to breed and nest in the maritime shrub community. Bird walks are conducted by volunteers and the visitor center is open 7 days a week.

  • Summer

    Piping Plover by Jeff Lewis

    Sea turtles nest on refuge beaches at night. Turtles are out and about and can often be sunning themselves in the banks of and logs in the pond along the North Pond Trail. Great blue herons, great egrets, and snowy egrets abound. In July and August, southbound shorebirds utilize the drained moist soil management units before they are flooded. Flowering plants on dunes and in marshes, including trailing wild bean, also known as the Pea Island Pea, display their flowers attracting a wide variety of pollinating insects. The refuge’s summer canoe tours and programs provide opportunities for the public to learn about the refuge and its wildlife and habitats.

  • Fall

    Northern River Otter by Ron Marchand

     September, October, and November treat us to a variety of goldenrods and asters that feed pollinating insects before frost occurs. Fruit and seed of native plants such as yaupon holly hang on vegetation throughout the refuge. Ducks, geese, and tundra swans begin making their way south to the Pea Island moist soil management units for a rest stop or overwinter destination. In October, the Wings over Water Festival brings 100 tours and programs to the area. Bird walks are conducted by volunteers and the visitor center is open 7 days a week.

  • Winter

    Blue Winged Teal by Jeff Lewis

      December through February is an exciting time at the refuge. Thousands of green-winged teal, mallards, American widgeon, black ducks, pintails, northern shovelers, ring necked ducks, and tundra swans make the Pea Island moist soil management units their winter home. Dabbling ducks harvest seed from the bottoms of moist soil management units; geese and swans glean grain from crop fields. Overwintering songbirds eat seed from native shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses. Bald eagles, barred owls, great blue herons, and American egrets are also among the cold weather sights. Visitors may walk around North Pond and on the beaches and drive the length of the refuge on North Carolina Route 12. Bird walks are conducted by volunteers and the visitor center is open 7 days a week.