Seasons of Wildlife

January & February

Although these months are typically cold and blustery, our nesting bald eagles spend their time laying and incubating eggs. The eagles are often seen hunting over the refuge’s pools where you're likely to find a wide variety of wintering waterfowl. Meanwhile, the forests provide cover for mammals and songbirds such as eastern towhees and yellow-rumped warblers.


As our bald eagle hatchlings emerge from their shells, the migratory waterfowl begin to depart for their northern breeding grounds. Shorebirds also arrive and begin courting for their nesting season. On March 15, the southern end of the island (known as the “Hook")  is closed to all public use to protect habitat for the threatened piping plover and other beach nesting birds.

April & May

A diversity of migratory shorebirds and songbirds arrive on the refuge.


his marks the beginning of the high tourist season as people migrate to the seashore for family vacations. Ticks and tick-borne diseases require visitors to check for unwanted “hitchhikers” after exploring the refuge’s many hiking and biking trails. The first week of June is National Fishing Week.


Many visitors flock to the refuge on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July for the annual pony penning activities conducted by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company in the town next to our refuge. Many species of wading birds, gulls, terns, and songbirds can be found throughout the refuge.


Mole crabs, ghost crabs and coquina clams frequent the seashore and herons and egrets line the ditches along Beach Road. Southward shorebird migration begins.

September & October

From mid-September to mid-October a number of hawks and falcons migrate through Assateague Island. The first migratory waterfowl arrive in September; however, the peak waterfowl migration usually occurs in November and December.

November & December 

These are splendid months to observe a variety of waterfowl, including snow geese. Chincoteague Refuge boasts thousands of snow geese who overwinter or use the area for feeding and resting as they migrate further south. Additionally, visitors can tour the northern portion of the refuge during Thanksgiving as part of the annual Waterfowl Weekend Celebration.

Featured Species

We have a diversity of habitats, ranging from the beach and dunes to the vast salt marshes to the west of the islands. It's no surprise then that our wildlife is equally varied and bountiful, from the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel, an animal recently removed from the endangered species list, to our vast array of migratory and nesting birds such as the threatened piping plover. This refuge is truly a wildlife enthusiast's paradise.

Grey, white and black bird on sand in the foreground

Size: 18 cm (7.25 in) in length. Color: Breeding season: Pale brown above, lighter below; black band across forehead; bill orange with black tip; legs orange; white rump. Male: Complete or incomplete black band encircles the body at the breast. Female: Paler head band; incomplete breast band....

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A monarch butterfly on a yellow flower

Adult monarch butterflies are large and conspicuous, with bright orange wings surrounded by a black border and covered with black veins. The black border has a double row of white spots, present on the upper side of the wings. Adult monarchs are sexually dimorphic, with males having narrower...

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Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel

This large, slate grey tree squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) has an unusually full, fluffy tail and white belly. Larger than common gray squirrels, this fox squirrel subspecies measures up to 28 inches long and weighs up to three pounds. Once found throughout the Delmarva Peninsula, the range...

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