Best Delaware Bird Watching Destinations, Free & Paid

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Birding In Delaware

Are you an avid bird watcher who lives in Delaware or wants to come to Delaware to find some beautiful bird-watching locations? You just happened upon an excellent and comprehensive bird-watching resource in this part of the US.

As a matter of fact, if you keep reading, you’ll learn about the best paid and free bird-watching destinations in “The First State”. Be sure to check out biding destinations of neighboring states New Jersey and Maryland as well.

We’ve shared in-depth information about the best birding locations in the great state of Delaware, along with hours of operation, physical addresses, videos, hiking trails, and social media info as well. Use this valuable resource to find the perfect birding in Delaware destinations and clubs.

Free Destinations For Birding In Delaware

Do you plan to spend time in Delaware soon? There are so many wonderful opportunities to have an adventurous hiking trip and birding experience in this beautiful state. Keep reading to find the top free and paid destinations in The First State.

Cape Henlopen State Park – Free Bird Watching, Paid Parking

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that this majestic location where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Delaware Bay is a beautiful place to go for bird watching, and in particular waterbirds. The autumn Hawk migration is also a spectacular event that you can witness during the fall. 

Besides the great birding opportunities, you can also tour Fort Miles historic area, borrow a bicycle to ride around the park, have a picnic, tour the Seaside Nature Center, or do a host of other wonderful activities in this exciting place.

Location:

15099 Cape Henlopen Drive
Lewes, DE 19958
Phone: 302-645-8983

GPS: 38.7821° N, 75.1033° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park is open every day from 8 AM to sunset. Park office hours are from 10 AM to 3 PM, seven days a week.

The Seaside Nature Center is usually open from 10 AM to 4 PM, Wednesday through Sunday, and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. But because of the current pandemic, the Nature Center is temporarily closed.

Fort Miles Museum is also currently closed because of the pandemic.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Red-Throated Loon
  • Great Cormorant
  • Purple Sandpiper
  • Black Skimmer
  • Piping Plover
  • Black Vulture
  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Least Tern
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel

Hiking Trails:

For all of you hikers and mountain bikers looking to explore the Cape, you’re definitely in luck because there are some beautiful hiking trails in this pristine location. Although typically easy to navigate, these trails definitely vary in distance. 

They also have a borrow a bike program, in which you can borrow a bicycle and ride along the trails instead of walking if you prefer.

The well-maintained and popular hiking trails include:

  • Pinelands Trail Loop – this hiking trail is relatively flat and simple enough to navigate. It’s 1.8 miles in total length and we believe it will take about 45 minutes to complete from start to finish at an average walking pace.
  • Junction and Breakwater Trail – this is currently the longest hiking trail in the area because it’s 5.8 miles in total length. Although very easy to navigate along a simple path, it’s still going to take around two hours and 25 minutes to complete mainly because it’s such a long distance.
  • Gordons Pond Trail – also a relatively long trail coming in at 5.2 miles in total distance, we believe that this simple to navigate and easy to walk path will take roughly 2 hours and five minutes for hikers to finish from beginning to end.
  • Seaside Nature Trail – this very easy trail is the shortest in distance that we are recommending in this State Park. In fact, it’s only 0.7 miles in length – less than a total mile – and it should only take between 15-20 minutes to complete from start to finish.
  • Walking Dunes Trail – this middle-of-the-road trail is very easy to walk along and there is even a boardwalk path at certain points along the way. It’s 2.6 miles in total and it should take about an hour and five minutes to walk the entire path from beginning to end.

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admittance

Everyone looking for a memorable birding experience will love visiting Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. 

This beautiful location is wheelchair accessible, filled with gorgeous wildlife, including deer, upland game birds, small game, and waterfowl.

It has 7 miles of fishing at Prime Hook Creek, as well as opportunities for canoeing, hiking, environmental education, lectures, and festivals at different times of the year.

Location:

11978 Turkle Pond Rd.
Milton, DE19968
Phone: 302-684-8419

GPS: 38°50′52″N, 75°16′1″W

Hours Of Operation:

The wildlife refuge opens up a half an hour before sunrise and closes a half an hour after sunset.

At the moment, the visitor center is currently closed along with the restrooms. They are closed because of the pandemic and will remain that way until further notice.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Red Knot
  • American Oystercatcher
  • Bald Eagle
  • Osprey
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Canada Goose
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper
  • Mourning Dove
  • Pine Warbler
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • White-Eyed Vireo
  • Tree Swallow
  • House Wren
  • Carolina Wren
  • Gray Catbird

Hiking Trails:

For those interested in viewing wildlife, you’ve definitely come to the right place by visiting Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Although I only have specific information on one trail, I discovered the names of many other trails that I will share with you below.

From what I can tell, there is lots of wildlife to observe in nature while walking along these trails. And there are plenty of wonderful birding opportunities since there are more than 308 species in the area.

The names of the hiking trails that combine for 6 miles in total distance include:

  • Photography Blind Trail
  • Pine Grove Trail
  • Black Farm Trail
  • Blue Goose Trail
  • Boardwalk Trail
  • Dike Trail

And let’s not forget about:

  • Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge Loop – this easy to navigate location is 1.6 miles long and the terrain is very simple to travel across. Since it’s a relatively short distance, we believe that it will only take around 40 minutes to complete this trail loop in its entirety.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge – Free Bird Watching & Hiking

Believe it or not, in the eastern United States, many consider Bombay Hook one of the most popular and famous locations for birding in the entire area. 

The wildlife refuge is on the Delaware Bay and encompasses roughly 16,000 acres of marshland and habitats. You’ll discover more than 320 different varieties of birds throughout the area, including wading birds, shorebirds, ducks, and geese.

Location:

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
2591 Whitehall Neck Rd.
Smyrna, DE19977
Phone: 302 653-9345

GPS: 39.2584° N, 75.4551° W

Hours Of Operation:

The visitor center is open every weekday from 8 AM to 4 PM all year round. Weekend Visitor Center hours are between 9 AM to 5 PM on Saturday and Sunday.

The park itself, also known as wildlife drive, is open a half an hour before sunrise and closes a half an hour after sunset each day. The park is open 24/7/365.

Popular Birds Found At This Location:

  • Tundra Swan
  • Bald Eagle
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Seaside Sparrow
  • Tricolored Heron
  • Snow Geese
  • Mute Swan
  • American Bittern
  • King Rail
  • Saltmarsh Sparrow
  • Clapper Rail
  • Marsh Wren
  • American Avocet
  • Black-Neck Stilt

Hiking Trails:

There are so many wonderful hiking trails at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. But don’t worry, because we have you covered today because we’ve shared all the important and pertinent details about these hiking trails with you below.

The diverse and adventurous hiking trails in the region include:

  • Shearness Tower Trail – the shortest and easiest trail of the bunch, this hiking trail is only 0.3 miles long and the terrain is flat and simple to walk along. It should only take about 10 minutes to complete this trail from beginning to end.
  • Raymond Pool Loop Trail – this is also an easy trail, just like every other trail that I’m about to share with you in the area, and this one is only 1.9 miles long. From start to finish, it should take about 45 minutes to go from end to end at an average walking speed.
  • Pasture Point Trail to Bear Swap Pool – the terrain is also very flat and doesn’t have a lot of bumps and obstacles along the way. This is a longer trailer at 2.9 miles long, which we believe will take about one hour and 10 minutes for walkers and hikers to finish.
  • Bombay Boardwalk Trail – since this trail is a boardwalk, it obviously isn’t going to have any obstacles in your path so it’s easy to walk along. It’s also short at 0.5 miles, which will take about 10 minutes to travel along the length of the boardwalk.
  • Shearness Pool Loop – this trail is also relatively flat and clear of obstacles, so it isn’t going to be difficult to walk along. Although, it’s definitely one of the longer trails at 5.4 miles in length. At a regular walking pace, we believe that it’ll take about two hours and 10 minutes to complete the whole trail.
  • Parsons Point Trail – this trail is relatively short and easy to navigate, coming in at 2.2 miles in total distance. It’s estimated to take 55 minutes to complete this trail walking at a moderate and steady pace.
  • Raymond Observation Tower Trail – this trail shouldn’t be too tough to complete because it’s also relatively flat and not too difficult. In fact, it’s only 1.8 miles long, which at a steady leisurely pace should take around 45 minutes to finish.
  • Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge Loop – this is the longest trail by far and it’s going to be slightly more difficult because of the 8.5 miles in distance, although it’s mostly flat and easy-to-walk ground. Because of the distance, we believe that walking at an average pace, you’ll finish the trail in roughly 3 ½ hours.

Little Creek Wildlife Area – Free Bird Watching

This is one of the biggest birding hotspots in Delaware, and it’s located right off of Port Mahon Road. There’s much to do in the area, including hunting, fishing, crabbing, and bird watching. You’ll find short-eared owls, sparrows, deer, and other gorgeous wildlife whenever you stop by and pay a visit to this classic bird watching destination.

Location:

Bayside Drive Road – Bayside Drive and S. Little Creek Rd. intersection
Dover, DE 19901
Phone: 302-284-1077

GPS: 39.1659° N, 75.4257° W

Hours Of Operation:

The wildlife area is open seven days a week from dusk until dawn and later if you’re there for hunting or fishing. This is a great place to visit all year round. Remember to bring mosquito repellent during the warm weather months.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Clapper Rail
  • Marsh Wren
  • Red Knot
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Seaside Sparrow
  • American Black Duck
  • Saltmarsh Sparrow
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Northern Harrier
  • American Bittern

Hiking Trails:

Although this beautiful forested area has many walking paths and trails along the way, the bulk of these trails, unfortunately, do not have a name even though they’re in plentiful supply. But one trail was officially named the David S. Small Wildlife Trail & Viewing Tower, which was dedicated back in 2017.

This trail isn’t very long. In fact, you’ll take a speedy walk-through nature along the boardwalk path to reach the Viewing Tower that provides a magnificent panoramic of the Delaware Bay in a beautiful secluded area.

Middle Run Natural Area – Free For Members And Nonmembers

Located in New Castle County, this gorgeous 860-acre park is a favorite for members of the Delaware Nature Society, who made it part of their Middle Run Valley Reforestation Project. Since 1991, they planted over 50,000 trees and shrubs and there is a great birding community that enjoys this area because they walk the trails and see the beautiful wildlife along 10 miles of hiking trails, biking trails, rolling hills, and fields.

Location:

Possum Hollow Road
Newark, DE 19711
Phone: 302-366 7000

GPS: 39.7157° N, 75.7242° W 

Hours Of Operation:

The hiking trails and natural area are open from dusk until dawn, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Popular Birds Found At This Location:

  • Yellow-Breasted Chat
  • White-Eyed Vireo
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Louisiana Waterthrush
  • Acadian flycatcher
  • House Wren
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Tree Swallow

Hiking Trails:

There are some beautiful hiking trails in the area that are of easy to moderate difficulty. These trails make it possible to walk through the forest and view a wide variety of birds in their natural habitat, as well as get some fresh air and much-needed exercise away from our computer screens, phones, and other digital devices.

The names of these fun filled and adventurous hiking trails include:

  • Lenape, Possum Hollow and Double Horseshoe Trail Loop – this hiking trail is very easy to walk along because it doesn’t have a lot of twists, turns, or bumps in the road. But it does go for a halfway decent stretch at 3.8 miles long. It should take someone walking at a moderate pace about an hour and 45 minutes to complete the trail from end to end.
  • Snow Goose Loop – this trail is definitely on the harder side because it’s moderately difficult and it does have a few twists, turns, and bumps in the road. It’s 2.5 miles in total, which we believe will take a moderately paced walker about an hour and 10 minutes to complete.
  • Lenape Loop South, Middle Run Natural Area – this is definitely the hardest trail in the area because the terrain is moderately difficult to walk along and the trail itself is 4.6 miles long, making it the longest trail as well. We believe that it will take about an hour and 55 minutes to walk the entirety of the trail.

Bird Watching Destinations In Delaware: Paid Destinations

Delmarva Birding Weekends

Phone: 443-614-0261 

This birding company focuses on providing bird watching experiences along the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware. They chose this Peninsula because it has beautiful environments that are the home to many wonderful birds including warblers, waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, and more. 

The swamps, wetlands, upland fields, and primeval forests are prime locations for birders looking to see many different species of birds out in their natural habitat.

The Delmarva Birding Weekends are hosted by a wide array of sponsors and partners. You can get in touch with Jim Rapp at 433-614-0261 or Dave Wilson at 433-523-2201 for more information.

Birding Adventures:

The names of their upcoming birding adventures are as follows:

  • Birding the Harriet Tubman Byway
  • Summer 2021 Nesting Colony Tours Including Sunsets Seabird Safaris and Smith Island Pelican Tours
  • Songbirds of the Swamp
  • Oktobirdfest X Dogfish Head
  • Winter Delmarva Dogfish Birding Weekends 2022
  • and More

If any of these birding weekends sound interesting to you, you should immediately contact Dave Wilson or Jim Rapp to find out specific details, prices, hotel information, and more. They will be glad to answer your questions and alleviate your concerns.

Delaware Birdwatching Clubs

Birding in Delaware is always an exhilarating experience. Do you know what’s even more thrilling? Birding with other like-minded members of a birdwatching club. Although there are only a few of these clubs in Delaware, the members are passionate, excited, and ready to help wild birds every step of the way. Are you ready to join them?

Delaware Ornithological Society

This organization loves everything about birds, bird conservation, and birding. This community is right up your alley if you’re looking for people interested in observing birds, feeding and caring for them, and enjoying the company of other people while in the presence of birds. They plan many bird club activities throughout the year, so you’ll enjoy their exciting bird walks and field trips as soon as you become a member.

Past and Future Events

  • June Pea Patch Island Heron Survey – on June 30, members of the club will meet at Pea Patch Island from 4 PM to 9 PM to survey the herons in the area. This is part of a monthly census that’s being led by Chris Bennett. You’ll also survey Ibis and egrets in the area as well. The same monthly survey is being held on July 28 from 4 PM to 9 PM and August 25 from 4 PM to 9 PM as well.
  • DOS October Meeting – the meeting is going to take place at the Ashland Nature Center in October. The event organizers do not have the full details as of yet other than it’s going to be held on October 20 from 7 PM to 9 PM. Visit this page for more information as the event date gets closer.

Membership Fees

  • Student Membership – $12.50 per year
  • Individual Membership – $25 per year
  • Household Membership – $37.50 per year
  • Kestrel Membership – $50 per year
  • Black-Necked Stilt Membership – $100 per year
  • Peregrine Membership – $200 per year
  • Lifetime Membership – $500 one-time payment

Some membership perks include:

  • Monthly meetings
  • Regular field trips
  • The Delaware Ornithologist annual journal
  • Youth bird watching activities
  • Monthly newsletter
  • and much more

Delaware Audubon Society

The Delaware Audubon Society is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that was originally incorporated in 1977. Their main focus is on advocating for environmental issues, habitat conservation, and appreciating and protecting birds in their natural environment. Their ultimate goal is to protect the Coastal Zone and Delaware Bay areas.

Past and Future Events

Unfortunately, the Delaware Audubon Society doesn’t really share information about past and future events on their website. They have a YouTube channel that you can visit here, but there’s only one video. Or you can check them out on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages to get a better feel for what they’re all about.

Membership Fees

You can join the Delaware Audubon Society by visiting this page and fill out the online form and payment information. Even though it isn’t clear what each level represents, the suggested payments are as follows:

  • $20
  • $50
  • $75
  • $100
  • $250
  • $500

You can make this a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution. And they’ve made it easy to pay with your bank account, credit card, or PayPal account.

The Sussex Bird Club

In 1982, Bill Fintel first formed the Sussex Bird club and he was the original president as well. Back then, they met at the Lewes Public Library seven times per year and didn’t have any meetings during the summer months or winter holiday months. Now, the club takes regular field trips, has regular meetings, and other exciting events for beginning birders and experts as well.

Past and Future Events

  • Fair Hill NRMA, Elkton, MD – this event just happened on June 17 and it took place between 6:30 AM and ended at 4 PM. The group went and visited the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in Maryland and viewed a wide array of birds including meadowlarks, Savannah sparrows, grasshopper sparrows, Bobolinks, warblers, flycatchers, Baltimore Orioles, and more. They walked along Big Elk Creek and spent time soaking up the scenery as they traversed the woodlands as well.
  • Prime Hook NWR Field Trip – this field trip was held on June 10 and began at 7:30 AM and finished at 11 AM. All attendees met at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge at the appointed time and they spent the morning walking around Blue Goose Trail, Fleetwood Ponds, Black Farm Trail, and other beautiful places looking for migrant birds, breeding birds, and more.
  • DE WildLands’ Great Cypress Swamp – this event took place on June 3. The group met up to take a field trip to Frankfurt, DE at 7:30 AM to visit the Great Cypress Swamp. On this field trip, the participants were lucky enough to see American Redstarts, Summer Tanagers, and Red-Headed Woodpeckers among other amazing birds along their travels. The event ended at 11:30 AM.

Membership Fees

  • Individual Membership – $20
  • Family Membership – $30

Fill out the PDF form and mail it into the following address. Make sure you mail the form in with your payment made out to Sussex Bird Club.

The mailing address is as follows:

John Long, Treasurer
Sussex Bird Club
PO Box 177
Lewes, DE 19958

Birding In Deleware Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many opportunities for some fantastic bird watching locations in the great state of Delaware. As you explore the First State and come across other birding resources that are not listed in this article, please send us an email so we can update this content! Our goal is to always provide you with the absolute best birding information for Delaware!