Wildlife & Habitat

Woodpecker at a tree
  • Bald Eagles

    Bald Eagles

    Rappahannock River Valley NWR is proud to have nesting and roosting bald eagle. Bald eagles prefer mature canopy trees that overlook the many creeks in the area and the tidal portions of the Rappahannock River. The river is a popular spot for wintering bald eagles with the highest concentrations found on Cat Point Creek. Westmoreland, King George, and Essex counties contain the highest numbers of breeding pairs in the state. Chances of spotting an eagle while visiting the refuge are fairly good.

  • Grasshopper Sparrow

    Grasshopper Sparrow

    Grasshopper sparrows are abundant during the breeding season in the grassland areas of the Wilna, Hutchinson, and Tayloe Units. This species feeds and nests on the ground in the tall, dense stands of grasses which are maintained through prescribed fire and mowing. Though usually a very secretive bird, breeding males can be seen perched and singing during late spring and summer.

  • American Black Duck

    American Black Duck

    The black duck is a species of conservation focus for the Northeast region and the Atlantic Flyway. The black duck has been thought to breed on the refuge and is fond of wintering the refuge’s wetlands and creeks. During the winter they are most often observed on the river, bays, and coves. However, they can be found year round in the shallow tidal marshes and ponds.

  • Forest Habitat

    Forest Habitat

    The refuge’s forest habitat is comprised of about 1,771 acres of loblolly pines, 1,563 acres of hardwood and mixed forest trees, and 453 acres of riparian/wet hardwood forest. Forested areas are monitored for invasive species and disease. Treatment includes mechanical removal and the application of herbicide when necessary. In effort to restore forested areas on the refuge, tree planting activities have occurred on the Wilna, Tayloe, and Wellford Units. Planted areas are left to mature and eventually convert to mixed pine and hardwoods.

  • Grassland Habitat

    Grassland Habitat

    The refuge’s grassland habitat consists of about 738 acres of agricultural lands and 1,558 acres of early successional shrub/field habitat. Continual maintenance occurs to keep the habitat from succeeding into forest and to control invasive species. Mowing and prescribed burns are the most common practices used. The application of herbicide is also used when needed to deter the spread of and elimination of invasive plant species. Discing and planting are sometimes used to promote plant diversity and desired structural landscape characteristics.

  • Wetland Habitat

    Wetland Habitat

    The refuge’s wetland acres contain 57 acres of coastal plain pond shore/wet meadow, 936 acres of northern brackish tidal marsh, 259 acres of northern fresh tidal marsh, and 76 acres of northern tidal wood swamp. There are also three acres of beach and 242 acres of open water. The refuge continues to monitor tidal marshes for phragmites and other invasive plants and apply treatment when possible. The wet meadow habitats, which are a huge draw for waterfowl, are typically small, formerly drained areas that function with minimal management but provide abundant food and resting areas.