My 10 Best Bird Watching Spots in Delaware You Should Try

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Delaware is a small state found in the mid-Atlantic region. It is the second smallest state after Rhode Island but still attracts a large bird population. You can choose my guide to the best birding spots to plan your trip to this state.

The best bird watching spots in Delaware include those on the shores of the Delaware Bay, such as Cape Henlopen State Park and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Other good birding spots include places with various habitats, such as Killens Pond State Park and Middle Run Valley Natural Area.

A table giving the most exciting birds you can see at each of my top 10 birding spots in Delaware:

Cape Henlopen State ParkLeast Tern and Piping Plover
Bombay Hook National Wildlife RefugeMute Swan and Clapper Rail
Prime Hook National Wildlife RefugeOsprey and Snow Geese
Middle Run Valley Natural AreaBlue-winged Warbler and Orchard Oriole
White Clay Creek State ParkMerlin and Tree Swallow
Little Creek Wildlife AreaBald Eagle and Red Knot
Brandy Wine Creek State ParkPrairie Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo
Killens Pond State ParkRing-necked Duck and Herring Gull
Fort Branch Nature PreserveBarred Owl and Red-shouldered Hawk
Dupont Nature CenterShort-eared Owl and Red-breasted Merganser
Best Places to Bird Watch in Delaware

Read on to learn more about the bird watching spots you should visit in Delaware and which species of birds you can see in each place.

Best Bird Watching Spots in Delaware
Best Bird Watching Spots in Delaware

TIP: If you want to check out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Best Places to Bird Watch in Delaware

There are many good places in Delaware for bird watchers to visit because there are a range of habitats and many good sites along Delaware Bay.

1. Cape Henlopen State Park

This park is located where the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay join. Winter is a good time to see waterfowl, and fall is an excellent time of year for spotting hawks during their migration. In September and October, hawk watches are done in the park from the dunes.

The Piping Plovers, Black Skimmers, and Least Terns are all species that nest on the beach here, so this is an important place for bird conservation. You should also note that part of the park will be closed during the nesting season of these species to avoid disruption. 

You can also find other species here, such as the Red-throated Loon, Northern Gannet, and Great Cormorant. Brown-headed Nuthatches are located in the trees in the park.

2. Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

This area is rich in birdlife, with over 320 species recorded here. This 16,000-acre refuge is situated on Delaware Bay. The habitats include salt marshes, grasslands, woodlands, and freshwater ponds. A bird species checklist is available for your visit to the refuge.

Many birds can be found here, including geese. Mute Swans, Tundra Swans, Snow Geese, and others can be seen in the refuge. Many waterfowl species have been recorded here, including Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, American Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, and Canvasback.

Marshy areas have birds like Clapper Rails, Sora, and Virginia Rails. Shorebirds to see include Semipalmated Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Gray Plovers, Stilt Sandpipers, and Ruddy Turnstones. 

There is a 12-mile drive you can take, and you can check the woods along Parson Point Trail for songbird species. Some songbirds found here include Louisiana Waterthrush, White-eyed Vireo, Palm Warbler, and Pine Warbler.

Several sparrows have been recorded in the refuge, including Seaside and Swamp Sparrows. The many different types of bird species make this a spot you should visit.

TIP: Knowing how to spot the birds in your yard is key to enjoying visits from your winged friends as much as possible! The best sources are trusted books, I recommend using the following (Amazon links):
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America
National Audubon Society Birds of North America

3. Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge is next to Delaware Bay and is 10,000 acres in size. Trails lead from the visitor center, taking you through grasslands, woodlands, and marshlands.

There are several places where you can pull over and look for birds. At least 298 species have been observed and recorded here. A checklist of the birds is available to use.

You can see Bald Eagles and Ospreys here. Tundra Swans and Snow Geese overwinter in large flocks in the tens of thousands. You can see Red Knots and American Oystercatchers from spring into summer here. Also, look for American Avocets, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Greater Yellowlegs. 

Wading birds in the area include Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Green Herons, and Little Blue Herons. You should look out for King Rails, Clapper Rails, Virginia Rails, Least Bitterns, Sora, and American Bitterns in the marshy areas.

Various songbirds can be spotted in the refuge, including Bay-breasted Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Blackpoll Warblers, Blue-headed Vireos, and Chestnut-sided Warblers.

4. Middle Run Valley Natural Area

This area is 860 acres and has many trails you can take while bird watching. It has the following habitats: Middle Run stream, mature forests, meadows, and shrubby grasslands.

Middle Run Natural Area is suitable for migrating birds that can stop and rest here. At least 225 bird species have been observed and noted in this refuge.

So many bird species may be seen because the park is in a valley, which many birds fly through on their annual migrations.

Some birds seen here include Blue-winged Warblers, Orchard Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, Prairie Warblers, and Louisiana Waterthrushes.

Raptor species, such as the Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Peregrine falcon, and Broad-winged Hawk, can be found here. In summer, the Common Nighthawk is also present.

5. White Clay Creek State Park 

This is close to Middle Run Valley. There is an illustrated bird species checklist available. You can find several species here, including birds like the Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, and Hairy Woodpecker. Yellow-billed Cuckoos can also be seen in summer in this park.

Regarding wading birds, you can watch for Great Blue Herons and Green Herons, both of which have been seen in the park. 

Raptors include Merlins, Red-shouldered Hawks, Ospreys, and Bald Eagles. Kentucky Warblers and Cerulean Warblers also breed in this park. You can also find Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows.

People have recorded Northern Waterthrushes, Indigo Buntings, Orchard Orioles, and Baltimore Orioles here, as well as Red-eyed Vireos. Many warbler species have been noted in the park. 

Warblers to look for include Northern Parulas, Ovenbirds, American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, Blackpoll Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and Black-throated Green Warblers. Northern Parulas can be seen near water, so that is good to keep in mind when birding.

The park is a great place to bird watch, and since it is close to Middle Run Valley, you could plan a bird watching trip to include both areas.

TOP TIPDo you have a favorite bird? Discover 10 of the most beautiful birds in the world in this article, and find out how many birds are in the world here. We reveal some amazing aviary facts!

6. Little Creek Wildlife Area

Little Creek Wildlife Area is 5,000 acres in size and is on the Delaware Birding Trail. A boardwalk is used as a trail for wildlife viewing, which is helpful for bird watchers.

You can see Bald Eagles, Short-eared Owls, and Northern Harriers in the refuge. There are also a variety of other birds, including egrets, waterfowl, and rails, which are regularly seen and recorded in the area. 

At least 250 bird species have been recorded in this wildlife area, making it a good spot for any birdwatcher. Red Knots can be seen at Pickering Beach, particularly during early summer, coinciding with thousands of horseshoe crabs.

The wetlands and dams are perfect for birds, and you should check marshy areas for species like the Seaside Sparrow, Marsh Wren, and Clapper Rail. Remember that rails are secretive birds, so you must look carefully, preferably at dawn and dusk when they are most active.

7. Brandy Wine Creek State Park

This park is found a few miles north of Wilmington. It has a creek but also open meadows and old-growth forests. The forest is an excellent place to spot songbirds during migration. There are 14 miles of trails in Brandy Wine Creek State Park that you can walk along while looking out for birds.

Tulip Tree Woods is an area in this park good for songbirds. The species of birds recorded here include the following: Prairie Warbler, Ovenbird, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Warbling Vireo.

In the more open areas of the state park, you can see Eastern Meadowlarks, American Kestrels, and Eastern Bluebirds. Golden Eagles and Northern Goshawks have been seen here between September and October during a hawk watch. Hawk-watching is expected in the park at this time each year.

8. Killens Pond State Park

Killens Pond State Park has a range of habitats, including a pond, wetlands, marshes, meadows, and upland forests. Many birds, including Barred Owls, Wood Ducks, and Prothonotary Warblers, can be seen here.

You can also see Snow Geese and Great Blue Herons near the wetlands and ponds. Waterfowl besides Wood Ducks, which can be found here, include Blue-winged Teals, Ring-necked Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Gadwalls, Common Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks, and Hooded Mergansers.

Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls have also been seen in this area. Various other bird species have been observed in the park. You can look out for the following birds here: Blue-headed Vireos, Eastern Wood Peewees, Acadian Flycatchers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

9. Fort Branch Nature Preserve

This preserve is in the St. Johns River watershed and comprises mature forests, which provide excellent habitats for many birds, including songbirds, during migration.

The types of birds you can find in this refuge include the following species: Wild Turkey, Wood Thrush, Veery, Great Blue Heron, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Downy Woodpecker.

You can also find many warblers in this area, including the Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Yellow-throated Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Palm Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Pine Warbler. 

You can find raptors such as the Red-shouldered Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk. Barred Owls are also found living in the forest here.

10. Dupont Nature Center

This area is located where Cedar Creek and the Mispilion River come together. Several birds can be seen in this area. A checklist of the birds is available for use here.

You can see waterfowl species in the waters here, such as American Wigeons, Red-breasted Mergansers, Red-throated Loons, Mallards, Ring-necked Duck, American Black Duck, Harlequin Duck, Horned Grebe, and Bufflehead.

Purple Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and Ruddy Turnstones are some shorebirds to look for near the water. The Purple Sandpiper will be in rocky areas. You can also see Short-eared Owls and Red-tailed Hawks in the park.

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Deluxe Treat Blend Wild Bird Food
Eastern Regional Wild Bird Food
Western Regional Wild Bird Food
Midwest Regional Wild Bird Food
Southern Regional Wild Bird Food

Best Time to Bird Watch in Delaware

Delaware is a state that always has birds to watch but to see particular species or kinds of birds, you may find it is best to visit in particular seasons.

Geese, Scoters, and LoonsWinter
Hawks on migrationFall
Best Time to Bird Watch in Delaware

The Delaware State Bird

Blue Hen Chicken - Delaware State Bird
Blue Hen Chicken – Delaware State Bird

The Blue Hen Chicken, Gallus gallus, is the Delaware State Bird. This breed of chicken is a form of domestic chicken. The bird is a bluish color with some black on its neck. The hen is grayer compared to the rooster, which is a brighter color. The comb of the bird is red.

Males of this chicken cannot be housed together as they are aggressive and fight other males. The hens lay brown eggs, and several can be accommodated with a single rooster.

Bird Watching Laws in Delaware

The nests, eggs, and all life stages of indigenous wild birds are protected under the law in Delaware. This protection does not include game birds during hunting season.

My Favourite Equipment for Bird Watching

Bird watching is one of the least expensive hobbies out there, but you still need some equipment to get the most out of it. 

The essential equipment to start bird watching is a pair of binoculars. My preference is 8 X 42 binoculars. The number 8 is how much the magnification is, while 42 is the field of view in millimeters of the lenses.

A pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars on Amazon is an excellent choice for both beginners and experts. 

In time, you can choose more expensive models and also opt to buy a spotting scope like the Celestron Ultima 80 on Amazon.

These are a lot more expensive compared with binoculars though, so if you are only a beginner, start with binoculars first. A spotting scope is only helpful for birds far away, such as out on a pond or seashore.

There are a few rules or guidelines you should abide by as an ethical birder. These are listed below.

  • Do not enter private lands without prior permission from landowners.
  • Follow all the rules in refuges and reserves, including cleaning up any garbage from your campsite.
  • Do not disturb birds on nests.
  • Do not use apps and play songs to call up birds when they are hungry, tired, and breeding during spring and summer.


Even though Delaware is a small state, bird watching is still very good because it attracts many birds, including those that use the Atlantic flyway during migration.

A range of habitats are available for birds, and many of the good birding sites are on Delaware Bay. In Delaware, bird watchers can visit to add species to their life list. 

TIP: If you want to check out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Rae Osborn

Rae Osborn is an avid bird watcher and holds a doctorate in Biology. Her interests in birds began as a child growing up in South Africa. She has continued to study birds and has bird watched in the United States and South Africa.

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