Birds

Black-belliedPlover-lewisX512

Currituck National Wildlife Refuge provides a variety of habitat for many species of birds.  Below, we have highlighted some of our more sought-after and/or most commonly seen species.

  • Common Loon

    CommonLoon-lewisX150

    Common Loons show up in our area around November to spend the winter. They feed primarily on fish which they catch by chasing them underwater. They have a sturdy bill and webbed feet, which are invaluable aids. Common Loons breed far north of us, primarily in Canada, and most adult birds leave North Carolina on their way north by late April.

  • Great Egret

    GreatEgrets-lewisX150

    This large white egret can be distinguished by other herons and egrets by its yellow bill and black legs. Feeding primarily on fish, Great Egrets can be found in coastal North Carolina year-round. They nest in colonies, often on inaccessible islands in our sounds.

  • Least Tern

    LeastTren-lewisX150

    These smallest of terns are fairly common along our beaches upon which they nest during the summer. They feed by hovering over the water and plunging for small fish. Least terns can be identified by their small size and their yellow bill (during the summer). They usually migrate south by October. 

  • Osprey

    Osprey-lewisX150

    This large fish-eating raptor is commonly found along our coastline from March into October. They nest in dead trees and man-made platforms, where they usually raise two or three noisy chicks.

  • Piping Plover

    PipingPlover-lewisX150

    The Currituck beaches are important stop-over sites for migrating Piping Plovers. They are usually found on the ocean beaches or on mudflats, where they search for insects and small aquatic animals. Piping Plovers are named for their clear, musical, whistled peeps.

  • Red-breasted Merganser

    Red-breastedMerganser-lewisX150

    Common in winter in salt water habitats, these diving ducks are experts at catching fish, aided by their long, slender serrated bills. They are normally present in North Carolina from November until May, although a few individuals are sometimes seen in summer.

  • Sanderling

    Sanderling-lewisX150

    These small “wave-chasers” are familiar shorebirds of the surf-zone, usually seen probing in the wet sand for small prey items. They are present for most of the year, except for a brief interlude in June and July when they nest up on the Arctic tundra.

  • Savannah Sparrow

    SavannahSparrow-lewisX150

    Common winter residents along the coast, Savannah Sparrows prefer short grass habitats. One of several sparrows found in North Carolina in winter, this heavily streaked sparrow can be identified by the short, notched tail and the yellow in the eye stripe. They also give a distinctive, high-pitched call.

  • Tree Swallow

    TreeSwallows-lewisX150

    Tree Swallows are common spring and fall migrant in coastal North Carolina, sometimes seen in enormous flocks of many thousands. They winter here, as well, but are erratic. Tree Swallows feed on the wing, consuming vast quantities of insects. In recent years Tree Swallows have begun nesting in Currituck County.

  • Tundra Swan

    TundraSwans-lewisX150

    These large and beautiful birds spend the winter in coastal North Carolina, where they can be seen in our sounds, lakes and man-made impoundments. They normally feed on submerged vegetation, but will also graze in farm fields. Tundra Swans are often heard before seen, as they fly high overhead in flocks.