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Back Bay
National Wildlife Refuge

View from the Seaside Trail as you are going out onto the refuge beach.
1324 Sandbridge Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA   23456
E-mail: erica_ryder@fws.gov
Phone Number: (757) 301-7329 x3106
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Back Bay Refuge contains over 8,000 acres, situated on and around a thin strip of coastline typical of barrier islands found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
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Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located in Virginia and was established in 1938 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl. The refuge contains more than 9,000 acres, situated around Back Bay, in the southeastern corner of the City of Virginia Beach. Because of its unique geographic location along the Atlantic Coast that provides overlapping ranges for both northern and southern species, biodiversity is high. Habitats include barrier island beach and dunes, shrub-scrub, woodlands, farm land and fresh and brackish marsh. Since 1939, an additional 4,600 acres of Bay waters within the refuge boundary have been closed to migratory bird hunting by Presidential Proclamation.

Today the Refuge continues to be an important link in the chain of National Wildlife Refuges along the Atlantic Flyway. More than 300 species of birds have been observed at the Refuge. During the fall and winter months, large flocks of waterfowl use the Bay and freshwater impoundments. The Snow and Canada goose, Tundra swan, and many duck species are abundant. Migrating songbirds and shorebirds arrive at the Refuge each spring and fall. Brightly colored warblers dot shrub and woodland areas while shorebirds search for food in shallow waters. Habitats are also used by a wide assortment of other wildlife, including such threatened and endangered species as the Loggerhead sea turtle, Piping plover, Peregrine falcon, and Bald eagle.

Getting There . . .
From I-64, exit on I-264 East. Exit onto Birdneck Road (Exit 22). Turn right onto Birdneck Road. Proceed 3-4 miles and turn right onto General Booth Boulevard. Proceed 5 miles and turn left onto Princess Anne Road. Proceed south about a mile until you reach Sandbridge Road. Follow Sandbridge Road until you reach the community of Sandbridge. Make a right onto Sandpiper Road. Proceed south 4 miles to the Refuge entrance. The Visitor Contact Station is one mile from the main entrance.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Back Bay Refuge habitats support a wide variety of plant and animal life.

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The Back Bay area has long been famous as a wildfowler's paradise where once large concentrations of wintering waterfowl and shorebirds could be found.

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Management Activities
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is managed to improve the quality and quantity of wildlife habitats. Although impounded Refuge wetlands have a natural appearance, most are intensively managed for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and other native wildlife uses. Management actions create diverse habitats for use by many wildlife species.

Habitat management at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge includes water level manipulation, prescribed burning, mowing, discing, root-raking, wetland restoration, reforestation, pest plant control, seasonal dike closures to protect wintering waterfowl, and population control.

Moist soil marsh areas are deliberately maintained in an early stage of wetlands plant succession. Waterfowl thrive marshes that contain succulent annual plant growth with few perennial species. Nest boxes and platforms are built to provide nesting areas for wood ducks, osprey, bluebirds and purple martins. The beach is surveyed daily throughout the summer for signs of nesting Loggerhead sea turtles. If a nest is discovered it is either left in place or relocated. If relocation is required, the eggs are transferred to a predator-proof cage and reburied in a safe location. The nests are then monitored and the hatchlings are released into the ocean after hatching.