Best Birding Destinations & Clubs In Virginia

December 11, 2021 // 19 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Virginia Birdwatching Resources

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Virginia is truly one of the top birdwatching destinations in the entire United States of America. There are so many amazing habitats and refuges to visit that it’s hard to keep track of them all. But please know that along the Atlantic shore there are many refuges and urban preserves. 

Some of the top spots include the barrier island, Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Kiptopeke State Park and other free and paid destinations for visitors and residents to enjoy.

Even better, in the US coastal mountain, Virginia is the first state to ever develop a statewide wildlife and birding trail. It encompasses 43,000 mi.² of natural habitat and it’s truly one of the most interesting and exciting birding trails throughout the entire country.

So, if you’re looking for the best free bird-watching hotspots in the area, or you’re ready to pay for the privilege of enjoying the ultimate birding experience, you’ll definitely find something for you, your family, and friends in the Mother of States.

Besides this excellent resource of Virginia birding destinations and bird watching clubs, we’ve also shared valuable information about neighboring states that include: Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

Bird Watching Destinations In Virginia: Free Destinations

Residents of Virginia, Washington D.C., and the surrounding area are in love with the numerous birdwatching hotspots scattered throughout the state. In fact, there are more than 8.5 million miles of protected bird areas spread over 14 wildlife refuges and 21 national parks. Whether you live in the Mother of States, or plan to visit soon, you’re bound to discover the perfect bird watching destination shared in the information stated below.

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admittance, Parking Fee

This Atlantic coast refuge is a great place to go if you’re a birding enthusiast. Waterfowl tend to migrate to the area during the winter, and so many appealing birds like songbirds, shorebirds, and raptors spend time on this protected land. The refuge boasts a maritime forest, wetlands, salt marshes, beaches, dunes, shrub land, and more, which makes it a wonderful place to visit for bird watching devotees.

Location:

8231 Beach Rd.
Chincoteague, VA 23336

Phone: 757-336-6122

GPS: 37°57′15″N 75°19′00″W

Hours Of Operation:

The wildlife refuge is open seven days a week, but the times vary throughout the seasons. The hours are as follows:

  • May through September – 5 AM to 10 PM
  • April and October – 6 AM to 8 PM
  • November through March – 6 AM to 6 PM

Although they do not charge an admission fee, there is a daily entrance fee for parking that costs $10 per vehicle. If you walk in on foot or on a bicycle, you aren’t required to pay this fee.

  • Piping Plover
  • Curlew Sandpiper
  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk
  • Clapper Rail
  • Merlin
  • Black Skimmer
  • Tundra Swan
  • Snow Geese
  • Least Tern
  • American Oystercatcher
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Virginia Rail

Hiking Trails:

Hiking trails abound at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Even though there are only three main trails to tell you about, the smallest is 3.2 miles and the largest is 25 miles, so there’s plenty of opportunities to go hiking and view the amazing birds at this wonderful destination. You’re truly going to appreciate spending time in nature as you hike up and down the easy terrain in this exhilarating place.

The names of the hiking trails are as follows:

  • Beachfront Backpacking Trail – when you hear the word beachfront, you may think of a friendly, leisurely trail that you can traverse with ease. Unfortunately, this isn’t 100% true since this trail is moderately difficult and it’s incredibly long at 25 miles in total distance. If you do decide to take the plunge and walk the entire trail from beginning to end, it will take you around 10 hours and 15 minutes to complete it in its entirety.
  • Eastern Shore: Chincoteague to Assateague Island – this trail is relatively long but it’s definitely easier to traverse when compared to the Beachfront Backpacking Trail because the terrain is a lot easier and much less daunting. Overall, the trail itself is 10.4 miles long, which should take you somewhere in the neighborhood of five hours or more to complete if you decide to walk the trail from start to finish.
  • Wildlife Loop – this is the shortest trail of the three and it’s also very easy to navigate because the terrain isn’t too rough to handle and there is a very clearly defined walking path that they take care of. All in all, the total distance of the trail is 3.2 miles. On average, the typical person walking at an average speed can complete this trail in one hour and 20 minutes.

Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admittance

This wildlife refuge is easy to get to because you’ll find it at the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula in Virginia. This is a great geographic location for a refuge, and during the fall you’ll see many birds that are heading south for the winter stop by to rest and feed at this location before moving on and heading further south. You’ll find shorebirds, songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and more species of birds along with over 10,000 monarch butterflies, which is truly a sight to behold.

Location:

5003 Hallett Cir.
Cape Charles, VA 23310

Phone: 757-331-2760

GPS: 37.1632° N, 75.9666° W

Hours Of Operation:

The visitor center is located at 332205 Seaside Rd., Cape Charles, VA 23310.

Their hours are as follows:

  • October through April – Saturdays from 10 AM to 2 PM
  • May through September – daily from 9 AM to 4 PM
  • they close the visitor center on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Thanksgiving Day

The wildlife refuge is open every day from dusk till dawn.

  • Northern Shoveler
  • Bufflehead
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Summer Tanager
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Brown Pelican
  • Brown-Headed Nuthatch
  • Seaside Sparrow
  • Northern Harrier
  • Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Pine Warbler
  • Peregrine Falcon

Hiking Trails:

Even though there are plenty of places to discover on foot when visiting the Eastern Shore in Virginia, there aren’t very many hiking trails that have a name. I’m going to tell you about the one hiking trail that I discovered with a name, mileage information, and more.

The hiking trail in question is called:

  • Eastern Shore of Virginia Refuge Butterfly Trail – the great thing about this trail is that it’s loaded with many wonderful birds and 10,000 monarch butterflies as well. You won’t have any difficulty walking along this trail because the terrain isn’t messy and it’s very easy to navigate. It’s also relatively short because it’s only 1.3 miles long, which should only take you about 30 minutes to complete if you walk at an average pace.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge – Free Entrance

The scenic views, the visitor center, and many wildlife trails are definitely all good reasons to visit this beautiful national wildlife refuge in Virginia. There are opportunities for education, amenities, and lots of wonderful birds and other wildlife to view in their natural habitat. You’ll discover waterfowl, ducks, swans, and many other types of birds during fall and winter migration periods.

Location:

Visitor Center
4005 Sandpiper Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23456

Phone: 757-301-7329

GPS: 36.6880° N, 75.9218° W

Website: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Back_Bay/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/backbaynwr 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/236412559/back-bay-national-wildlife-refuge/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/usfwsnortheast 

Hours Of Operation:

The wildlife refuge itself is open from dusk until dawn each day.

The visitor Center hours are as follows:

  • Tuesday through Friday – 8 AM to 4 PM
  • Weekends – 9 AM to 4 PM
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Northern Gannet
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Northern Bobwhite
  • Black Skimmer
  • Bald Eagle
  • Snowy Egret
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Least Bittern
  • Northern Harrier
  • Osprey
  • King Rail

Hiking Trails:

One of the most exciting things about visiting Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is that they have a wide array of hiking trails available throughout the premises. These trails are relatively long, moderately difficult, and certainly a lot of fun because they offer so many wonderful opportunities to view beautiful wild birds in nature, which is truly a delightful thing to see.

The names and other pertinent information about these hiking trails and canoeing or kayaking trails are as follows:

  • Lotus Pond Paddle – as the name suggests, this isn’t actually a hiking trail per se but you’ll have the opportunity to paddle down a lazy pond in a canoe or kayak. The total distance is 6.6 miles, and it provides a unique experience and a great chance for you to view lots of natural wildlife and birds out on the water, which truly is a wonderful treat.
  • East and West Dike Trails Loop – this trail is moderately difficult because the terrain gets a bit rough at certain points, but it isn’t so difficult that a beginner hiker couldn’t handle it. The total length is 6.7 miles, which is relatively long for many people. This is especially true if you do not walk a lot. On average, it will take a person walking at a regular speed two hours and 45 minutes to complete this trail.
  • Dunes and Seaside Trail – this is definitely the easiest trail that I’m going to recommend today because you can travel along the predetermined path that they keep clean, trimmed, and in good repair. Overall, this hiking trail is 2 miles long, which you could easily complete in about an hour.
  • West Dike, Barbour Hill, Sandy Ridge Beach Loop – this is certainly a harder trail because the difficulty level is moderate, which doesn’t mean it’s impossible but it’s a little more difficult to walk along then an easier trail. And it’s also kind of long because the total distance is 8.9 miles from beginning to end. If you were to walk the length of the entire trail, it would take about three hours and 35 minutes to complete.

Kiptopeke State Park – Free Admission, Paid Parking

This state park is famously known for its fall hawk watching season. It’s on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and they started their hawk watch all the way back in 1977. Since the beginning, they’ve recognized 19 different species of hawks, and they have successfully recorded 750,000 individual birds. Although the area is famous for its hawks, there are other wonderful birds to see in this beautiful location too.

Location:

3540 Kiptopeke Drive
Cape Charles, VA 23310

Phone: 757-331-2267

GPS: 37.1703° N, 75.9810° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park itself is open every day from sunrise to sunset, and the fishing pier remains open 24 hours a day. Adults pay five dollars to fish off of the peer and kids pay three dollars to fish off of the pier, but it’s free to enter into the park.

The office hours are as follows:

  • Sunday through Thursday from 8 AM to 4 PM
  • Friday and Saturday from 8 AM to 7:30 PM
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Merlin
  • Golden Eagle
  • Zone-Tailed Hawk
  • American Oystercatcher
  • Swallow-Tailed Kite
  • Northern Goshawk
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Black-Bellied Whistling
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Wilson’s Phalarope

Hiking Trail:

You have the opportunity to explore three exciting hiking trails the next time you visit Kiptopeke State Park. All three of these trails are easy to navigate, easy to walk along because the terrain is clear, and they are all relatively the same size between 2-3 miles long.

  • Baywoods, Raptor and Taylor Pond Loop – this is the shortest trail out of the three that I am currently recommending, but it’s also an easy trail to walk along as well because there’s a wooden bridge and boardwalk for a stretch of the trail and the rest of the terrain is very easy to navigate. The total distance is 1.9 miles, which should take around 50 minutes to complete.
  • Brown Pelican Trail – this trail is a little bit longer than the previous one but it’s also very easy to navigate and the terrain is smooth because you’re walking along the edge of the beach. The total distance is 2.4 miles, which should take about an hour to finish from end to end.
  • Baywoods, Raptor and Songbird Loop – certainly the longest trail out of the three trails in this state park, it’s also very easy to walk along this trail because the terrain is cleared, the path is defined, and the people who manage the park take care of this trail and keep it free of overgrowth and debris. The trail is 2.9 miles long and it should take about an hour and 10 minutes to finish.

Huntley Meadows Park – Free Admission for Individuals and Families

This natural area is one of the favorites of residents of Virginia and Washington DC. It’s merely 7 miles away from Washington National Airport, and it consists of 1557 acres of beautiful and protected land on the Potomac River. You can discover as many as 240 bird species visiting this exhilarating park throughout the year.

Location:

3701 Lockheed Blvd.
Alexandria, VA 22306

Phone: 703-768-2525

GPS: 38.7575° N, 77.0985° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park is open 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. At the moment, the visitor center is still closed because of the Covid 19 pandemic.

  • Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • American Woodcock
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Wood Duck
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Virginia Rail
  • Mississippi Kite

Hiking Trails:

Huntley Meadows Park is the home of two of the nicest hiking trails in all of Virginia. One of these trails even has a boardwalk that takes you directly over the water, and it’s really a beautiful sight to see.

The hiking trails in question are called:

  • Huntley Meadows Hike and Bike and Restoration Trail – this trail has easy terrain to walk along and it’s very easy to navigate as well because the trail is clearly defined. It’s relatively short at 2.8 miles, so you can technically finish the trail in about an hour and 10 minutes if you walk at a moderate pace.
  • Cedar Trail, Deer Trail, and Heron Loop Trail – this hiking trail is also very easy to navigate and walk along because they take good care of the grounds and make sure the trail is in tip top condition. It’s 2 miles long in total distance, which should be easy enough to walk along at an average pace. In fact, many people are capable of completing the entire trail in about 50 minutes.

Bird Watching Destinations In Virginia: Paid Destinations

Bird Treks – Paid Virginia Birding Tour

This company has been around for more than 25 years, and they will gladly take you on an exciting birding tour throughout Virginia. Obviously, this is a large company that covers birding tours across many areas of the globe, so if you’re looking for a true birding adventure that may take you far from home, you should visit their website to learn more about their upcoming tours.

Their Virginia birding tour will take you on a wonderful adventure to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Chincoteague Island. Other areas to visit on the tour include Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Ocean City Inlet, and Willis Wharf among others.

Ultimately, the 2021 Virginia Bombay Hook tour lasts for five days and the price starts at $1900 per person. Click here to learn more about the specific details of this particular birding tour.

Location:

Birding Ecotours, LLC
PO Box 292574
Kettering, OH 45429

Phone: 937-238-0254

Virginia Birdwatching Clubs

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that the state of Virginia is filled with many incredible places to go to enjoy bird watching at its finest. Even better? There are a number of exciting birdwatching clubs to join in this state as well. So, you can easily connect with other like-minded people and share this wonderful experience together on a regular basis as you develop friendships that last a lifetime.

Northern Virginia Bird Club

This bird club was originally founded in 1954. It started out as the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Society of Ornithology. Although they still remain a chapter of this organization, they shortened their name and recently celebrated their 50th anniversary as members of the society during 2004. Like-minded Northern Virginia birders join this club to get together for field trips and other exciting birding events.

Past and Future Events

  • Laurel Hill Equestrian Center – this birdwatching trip took place on March 31, 2021 at 8:30 AM. The event was led by Phil Silas.
  • Long Branch Nature Center – this event was held on April 7, 2021 at 8:30 AM and it was led by Tom Nardone.
  • Burke Lake Park – this event happened on April 14, 2021 at 8:30 AM. Phil Silas led this wonderful bird watching event.
  • Trillium Trail – this event happened on Saturday, May 8, 2021 at 7:30 AM. Ken Hunt led the group on their search to discover as many bird species as possible.
  • Meadowood Recreation Area – this event was held on May 19, 2021 at 8:30 AM. Larry Cartwright led this fun filled birding event.

Membership Fees

It’s easy to join the Northern Virginia Bird Club. And when you do join, you’ll be in great company because the organization has around 600 members. You can pay for your membership online by visiting this webpage and following the online prompts.

Membership fees are as follows:

  • Individual Yearly Membership – $10
  • Individual 2 Year Membership – $20
  • Individual 3 Year Membership – $30
  • Family Yearly Membership – $15
  • Family 2 Year Membership – $30
  • Family 3 Year Membership – $45

Williamsburg Bird Club

This bird club first formed in 1977, and since then they have been performing 30 years of community service in the Williamsburg Virginia area. Joining this bird club means getting together with like-minded individuals interested in all things devoted to birds. They go on field trips, host regular group meetings, and they even publish the Williamsburg Bird Club Notes. Birders in the area should make every effort to join this club as soon as possible.

Past and Future Events

  • New Quarter Park Bird Walk – this upcoming bird walk is going to be held on August 28 and you will meet up at the destination at 8 AM and the event will go until 10 AM. You’ll meet in the large parking lot near the office. This area is free and open to the public and it’s highly recommended that you bring your own binoculars to view the amazing birds in the area easier and more clearly.
  • Kittiewan Plantation Bird Walk – this previous event was held on a Saturday on March 14, 2020 and took place from 7 AM to 10 AM in Charles City, Virginia. It was a beautiful day at the beginning of the pandemic, but they still went on the trip and maintained social distance as they discovered this new location for the 1st time on a bird walk.

Membership Fees

  • Individual Membership – $20
  • Family Membership – $25
  • Patron Membership – $35
  • Student Membership – $5

Visit this page to download and print their membership form. After you’ve printed and filled out the form, you can mail it to the following address:

Williamsburg Bird Club
PO Box 1085
Williamsburg, VA 23187

Augusta Bird Club

This Augusta, Virginia-based bird club first came into existence in 1966. Membership in the club has grown dramatically over the years. They have meetings every second Monday of the month at 7 PM with the occasional exception. They take regular field trips throughout Augusta County and other parts of Virginia. All birders and birdwatchers are welcome to join this prestigious organization.

Past and Future Events

  • Bells Lane – the group got together on April 15 and met at the ABC Kiosk near Commerce Road. From here, they spent time together walking the path and birdwatching with group leader Penny Warren. The event began at 8:30 AM on this day.
  • Betsy Bell Park – on May 3 of this year, Penny Warren and her group met at 8:30 AM in the parking area on the right side of the park entrance sign. From here, they walked through the park and enjoyed the pleasure of each other’s company as they viewed beautiful wildlife and other astounding avian creatures like birds, butterflies, and more.
  • Augusta Springs Wetlands – at 8:30 AM on Saturday, April 24, Andrew Clem and a group of birders got together at this location. They walked through the wetlands and enjoyed the sunshine, the birds, and a wonderful experience with other like-minded birders.

Membership Fees

  • Individual Membership – $15
  • Couples Membership – $25
  • Family Membership – $30

Visit this page to download, print, and fill out their membership form. Please mail it in along with a check payable to Augusta Bird Club at the following address:

Martha Gibbons, Membership Chair
Augusta Bird Club
305 Baldwin Dr.
Staunton, VA 24401

Final Thoughts: Favorite Virginia Birding Destinations & Clubs

We appreciate that everyone reading this took the time to discover information about our favorite free and paid birding destinations in Virginia. We also shared information about some exciting birdwatching clubs, their membership fees, and events that they host throughout the year including bird walks and monthly meetings. We hope this information was informative and answered all of your questions.

Before moving on:

Do you have other information about Virginia birdwatching destinations or local bird-watching clubs in the area? Let us know about them by sending us a message and we will add your valuable resources to our ever-growing list.

Our goal is to become the #1 Virginia birdwatching resource online!

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