Wildlife & Habitat

  • Shorebirds

    American oystercatcher chick and eggs

    Shorebirds and Fisherman Island go together like peas and carrots! Being the most southern Virginia barrier island, Fisherman Island has important beach habitat for migrating and nesting shorebirds. Of course it is this very reason Fisherman Island is closed during the nesting season. The amazing camouflage of shorebird eggs on sand and shells can fool even the most seasoned biologist! Pelicans can be seen hanging out around the Island perimeter. 

    Just because the Island is closed during nesting season doesn’t mean you won’t catch a glimpse of shorebirds during the tour season. To sign up for a free Fisherman Island tour from October-February, call 757-331-2760 and leave a message with your name and contact information. 

  • Diamondback Terrapin

    Diamondback Terrapin

    Diamondback terrapins are unique land turtles who spend the majority of their life in the water! Salt marshes serve as their safe haven. Their distinctive shells have diamond-shaped plates, their heads and legs are speckled with black dots, while their beaks are white.

    One threat these turtles face is car collisions. That is why when you drive over Fisherman Island on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel you’ll notice a long black tube running along the roadway. This barrier deters terrapins from crossing the road. The barrier forces the terrapins to turn around and use the suitable habitat where they are safely living.

  • Raptors

    Red-tailed hawk.

    Ospreys, and eagles, and red-tailed hawks -- oh my! When you take a Fisherman Island tour during the tour season you are likely to sight one of these predatory giants grace the sky with their broad wings and sharp eyes. Raptors just like songbirds migrate along the Delmarva Peninsula. They take advantage of the abundance of food found -- whether that be other birds, small mammals or fish.

  • Salt Marsh

    Salt Marsh

    The salt marsh habitat of Fisherman Island not only plays a role in the health of Fisherman Island but in the life found in the Bay and Ocean as well. The tidal environment hosts critters from the wiggly microscopic to the wide stepping Great Blue Heron. It is a safe space for young crabs and buffers the Island from heavy storms. 

  • Dunes


    It’s just sand, what’s the big deal?!

    There are three parts to the dune system: foredune, primary dune ridge and secondary dune ridge. Plant life of a dune system is more complex than you may think. The foredune has grasses such as salt meadow hay and American beach grass. Further back into the secondary dune you can even find woody vegetation such as myrtle and cedar. The dunes are used by everything from insects to shorebirds and sea turtles. Dunes are sensitive and can be disturbed by simple foot traffic. During Fisherman Island tours visitors should stay off the dunes to protect such precious dune habitat. Turns out all that sand is important!

  • Maritime Forest

    Maritime Forest

    The opportunity to wander through the maritime forest of Fisherman Island during a tour is something you won’t want to miss! This is the oldest and most stable part of the island, thus it has the most developed vegetation. Cherry, sassafras, sumac and American holly and wax myrtles dominate the maritime forest of Fisherman Island. Migratory and year-round birds use the forest for shelter as well as food. This is also where remnants of the military can be seen.