Chincoteague and Assateague Bird Watching

Chincoteague and Assateague Island are among the premier bird watching spots in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA. On practically any day of the year, visitors can easily count hundreds or thousands of birds simply by driving from the Chincoteague Island causeway to the beach at Assateague.

Song birds

Both islands are visited by large numbers of song birds. The marshes, wildflowers and areas of brush provide ideal nesting and feeding habitat. Other songbirds inhabit the tall pine forests of Assateague Island. Warblers, nut hatches, sparrows, red wing blackbirds and others nest on the refuge in the summer, while cardinals, jays, woodpeckers and finches reside during the winter months.

Shore Birds

Herons, egrets, ibises, oyster crackers, marsh hens and other shorebirds are frequently spotted along the marshes of Chincoteague and Assateague. On the beaches, dozens of species of sandpipers, plovers, gulls and terns feed, nest and raise chicks.

Birds of Prey

Chincoteague and Assateague islands are visited by a number of birds of prey. Ospreys arrive in the spring to raise young and feed on the abundant fish stocks. As seasons change, some ospreys migrate south while other birds of prey move onto Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding areas. American eagles, red tailed hawks and other large hunters are present in fall thru spring. Other hawks such as sparrow hawks may be found on the islands year round.


Ducks, geese, brant and swans all make stops around Chincoteague and Assateague islands. In the refuge, geese and swans take up residence year round. Other full time residents include black ducks which raise their young in the refuge and on the marshes of Chincoteague Island, Wallops Island and along the causeway onto the area.

As autumn arrives, ducks and geese begin to pour into the refuge and surrounding areas. The refuge is well known for it's visiting shoveler ducks, pintails, mallards, widgeons, teal, rudy ducks, canvasbacks, redheads, ring necked ducks, bluebills, and others. Mergansers, buffleheads, goldeneyes and other diving ducks show up in the bay waters as cold weather sets in. Off the coast, rafts of sea ducks and small groups of oldsquaw ducks forage along the shoals over the winter. 

Pelagic Birds

The waters off Chincoteague are visited by up to 30 species of pelagic birds including albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, storm-petrels, phalaropes, skuas, jaegers, gulls, terns and alcids. These birds migrate along the offshore waters, many never see land on the eastern seaboard.

Chincoteague wildfowl art and other gifts are featured at our Outdoors USA store.

Area bird watchers can find more on birding articles on the Tri County Bird Club page.


Submitted by: cin