Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of the finest birding sites in the entire state. More than 5,000 acres in size, the refuge is bordered on the west by Pamlico Sound and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. Habitats range from salt marsh, to maritime scrub-shrub, to freshwater impoundments, to beach and dune. Spring and fall migrations are prime time to bird at Pea Island. Start out at the visitor center, where a trail leads through a short stretch of maritime forest and along a large impoundment. Watch for a wide variety of shorebirds, including Black Skimmer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, and the occasional rarity, such as the Long-billed Curlew. During winter, thousands of Snow Geese crowd the refuge impoundments, along with Tundra Swan, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal and many other waterfowl species. In the marshes just west of the impoundment, listen and watch for a variety of rail species. Piping Plover, Marsh Wren, Seaside Sparrow, and many wading birds are year round residents. A variety of gulls and terns can also be seen, including Roseate, Black, and Caspian Tern. On the ocean side in late fall and winter, scan the horizon for passing scoters, mergansers, loons, and grebes.
Species of Interest (Full Bird List)
Snow Goose, Tundra Swan, Horned Grebe, Piping Plover, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet
managed waterfowl impoundments, maritime forest, salt marsh, beach and dune
Access and Parking
Park at the visitor center to access the North Pond impoundment. Inquire at the visitor center about other parking areas from which to access beach and dune habitats and to pick up a refuge map. The visitor center is open 9am to 4pm daily. Hours may vary depending on volunteer staffing availability. The refuge is open during daylight hours, year-round.
From Nags Head, take NC 12 south. After crossing Bonner Bridge at Oregon Inlet, the visitor center entrance will be approximately 3.75 miles on the right.
Delorme Gazetteer Page
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge