Delaware, nicknamed The First State, is one of the top birding destinations on the Atlantic coast, with a variety of wildlife refuges, state parks, and nature centers just waiting for your unforgettable visit.
- Most Common Birds — Canadian Goose, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Mourning Dove
- Rare Birds — Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Greater White-fronted Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, King Eider, Harlequin Duck, Northern Bobwhite, Ring-Necked Pheasant, Wild Turkey
- Environment of Delaware — Lowlands, Rolling Hills, Coastal Plain, Rivers
- Best Time for Birdwatching Travel — A mild climate makes for excellent year-round birding across the state
Top 5 Delaware Birding Trails
The state of Delaware has plenty of fantastic birding hot spots–here’s a look at five of the best.
If you’re looking for additional, more detailed information on Delaware birding, I suggest you take a look at DelawareBirdingTrail.org.
Ashland Nature Center
The headquarters of the wonderful Delaware Nature Society is the Ashland Nature Center, located two miles east of the unincorporated township of Hockessin in the northernmost region of the state.
The Ashland Nature Center features a series of four self-guided tour trails that meander around the 130-acre wilderness. There’s a variety of terrains to explore, including meadows, fresh water marshes, and forests. You’ll be sure to catalogue plenty of field and woodland avifauna.
The Ashland visitor’s center features an incredible feeding station for resident and migratory birds, so you’re guaranteed to see flyers in action, even if you’re not very good at spotting them solo with your binocs on the trail.
If you’re looking to take a casual hike in the wilderness, you probably won’t find a more all-around enjoyable site than the Ashland Nature Center–it’s both educational and entertaining.
Visit the official site of Ashland Nature Center.
Delaware Bay Spectacle
Granted, this isn’t really a trail, but it’s certainly a can’t-miss birding opportunity in Delaware. While the exact details differ from year to year, the basic idea is that a great multitude of Horseshoe Crabs are born along the Delaware Bay shore every spring. Doesn’t sound like it has much to do with bird watching, does it? Well, it might not, except for the huge number of Sanderlings, Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, sandpipers and more that get distracted along their migration routes by this veritable smorgasbord.
Delaware is perhaps the top shorebird viewing destination in the country, and this crab feeding frenzy is only one of the many reasons why. There are several places to get an excellent view of this awesome spectacle, but if you’re brand new to the area, try the DuPont Nature Center on Slaughter Beach.
Delaware Seashore State Park
Located along the Coastal Highway–Delaware’s Highway 1–you’ll find the Delaware Seashore State Park, an area famous for the abundance of water birds and land birds alike.
The beaches at the Delaware Seashore State Park are a huge draw for vacationers looking for a swim and a suntan, but they’re also prime locations for spotting loons, grebes, geese, and ducks aplenty. There are also the dune scrub lands on the other side of the beach access roads, where you can set your sights on over-land flyers visiting during migration or living as residents.
If you’re traveling during the months from late fall to early spring, you absolutely have to explore the North and South Jetties, which feature an abundance of sea ducks at that time, such as Long-tailed Ducks, Common Eider and Razorbill Ducks. You might even get the chance to collect the rare Harlequin Duck there if you’re looking hard enough.
Visit the official site of Delaware Seashore Park.
Abbott’s Mill Nature Center
The Abbott’s Mill Nature Center is managed by the Delaware Nature Society–the same folks who take care of the Ashland Nature Center and call it home. This center features myriad hiking trail, not to mention several canoeing opportunities on its 23 acres of ponds and streams.
During any season of the year, you can catch some glorious glimpses of woodland avifauna, either on the water or on the paths. Plenty of migratory birds join the local residents–which include Barred Owls and Pileated Woodpeckers–in this mill pond wonderland.
The Center itself is incredibly active, hosting plenty of field trips, overnight summer trips for kids, and a good deal of instructional and educational activities for all ages. Learn about the area while cataloguing some beautiful flyers at the Abbott’s Mill Nature Center.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
You could easily spend a whole week, let alone a single day, at the vast Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. With over 16,000 acres and five hiking trails–two of which are even handicap accessible–you’ll have plenty to look at here on the edge of the Delaware Bay.
Bombay Hook is Delaware’s most famous birding site for a very good reason–with a hugely diverse array of different terrains, you can be sure the number of birds here is gargantuan. Mudflats, marshes, forests, plains, and meadows offer birding opportunities galore.
One of the best places to observe avifauna at Bombay Hook is Raymond Pond, where you are guaranteed to spot a vast variety of waterfowl and shore birds. If there’s one place you need to visit for excellent bird watching in Delaware, make it Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge–it’s simply spectacular.
Visit the official site of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
About the State of Delaware
Delaware was the first colony to ratify the Constitution of the U.S., officially making it the first state of the union–hence its nickname. Nestled along the Atlantic coast, with borders touching Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland, Delaware is the second smallest state in the country–only beaten by Rhode Island–but its rivers, beaches, plains, and rolling Appalachian hills make it a prime spot for birding enthusiasts.
Nearly the entire state is on a level plane of elevation, with its highest point being less than 500 feet above sea level. This means that you won’t find avifauna indigenous to mountainous areas, but there are still plenty of waterfowl and woodland flyers around to catalogue and collect.
Even though the state has four distinct seasons, the climate of Delaware is moderated nicely by the nearby Atlantic Ocean, making it a perfect year-round bird watching destination. Winter can certainly be cold and summer has been known to be hot, but extreme temperatures aren’t incredibly frequent and even when they are, they’re still far more bearable here than in other parts of the country. Delaware is often considered The First State, not just in terms of Constitution ratification, but also in coastal bird collecting.