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Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail

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  • Seasons: Winter, Spring, Fall, Summer
  • Site Contact: (757) 336-6122 jill_vanscoyoc@fws.gov
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Site CES18: Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

Description

This is one of the most heavily visited refuges in the national wildlife refuge system, and acts as a gateway to the accessible barrier islands on the East Coast. A visitor center, bird checklists, beach access, and an array of wildlife species make this one of the nation's premier sites for easily accessible wildlife viewing.

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is located next to Chincoteague Island at the south end of Assateague Island on the Atlantic coast. The refuge is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is renowned for its diverse bird habitat where more than 320 species are known to use the refuge regularly during migration. It has at least 100 species of birds present at any given time. Shorebird concentrations at Chincoteague are so great during fall migration that it ranks as an important stopover area for migrating birds in the U.S east of the Rockies. The refuge was also ranked second in shorebird diversity among all 450 sites in the International Shorebird Survey in 1985. Chincoteague is also famous for the herds of Chincoteague ponies that were first introduced to the island in the 17th century. Much of the refuge's operations focus on managing it for the benefit of the diverse wildlife species.

Chincoteague is a year-round wildlife-viewing destination. The best viewing opportunities to see the myriad of geese, ducks, and swans are in the fall and winter months. Fall is also the optimal time to view the array of raptors that pass over on their migration south. In spring, the vast number of eggs laid by spawning horseshoe crabs attracts migrating shorebirds, supplying them with a crucial food source to fuel their journey north. This makes Chincoteague second only to Delaware Bay as a feeding area for ruddy turnstone, red knot, dunlin, semipalmated sandpiper, and sanderling. Chincoteague is also home to threatened and endangered wildlife, including Delmarva fox squirrel, piping plover, bald eagle, and Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle.

Directions

From Queen Sound Landing, continue east on SR 175/Chincoteague Road for 2.4 miles to Main Street. Turn left and drive 0.3 miles to Maddox Boulevard. Turn right and continue through the traffic circle where Maddox becomes Beach Road. Follow Beach Road to the National Wildlife Refuge. Continue to the Visitors Center on the left. To return to I-64 in Virginia Beach, return via Rt. 175 to US 13. Follow US 13 south for approximately 90 miles to I-64.

Loop Map