Wildlife & Habitat

  • Bald Eagle

    Bald eagle in flight - Steve Maslowski.

    The bald eagle, America’s national symbol, is a large stately bird. Hundreds of eagles utilize the refuge at varying times throughout the year. Adults are easily identifiable by their bright, white head, massive yellow bill, and long white tail feathers. Typically seen perched or flying near large water bodies, these raptors feed on fish, small mammals, and birds. The call of the eagle is a harsh creaking cackle. The refuge currently supports five bald eagle nests and a large roosting population.

  • Chuck-wills Widow

    Chuck-wills widow - USFWS.

    The Chuck-wills widow is a 12” bird with soft, dark, cryptically patterned feathers, similar to plumage of owls. The bird is active at night, feeding on insects and occasionally on small amphibians. The ground nesting Chuck-wills widow occupies pine forest habitats, preferably in clearings, such as burned or thinned areas. Invisible to most predators, this bird is more often identified by their calls, the four-syllable “chuck-will’-wid’-ow.”

    Evidence from national Breeding Bird Surveys suggest that this species is declining throughout their breeding range. James River National Wildlife Refuge population has been increasing since habitat management activities have been employed.

  • Eastern Box Turtle

    Box turtle - Chelsi Hornbaker.

    The box turtle is so named due its ability to conceal itself in its own shell. With reptilian ancestors that date back millions of years, this species continues to survive today. The adult box turtle is a 4-5” creature well adapted for navigating upland sites. Feeding on both plants and insects, the brightly colored turtle live a relatively solitary life. These turtles hibernate during the cold season and reemerge once warmer temperatures return. The box turtle is able to eat poisonous mushrooms without harm, storing the toxins in their flesh. Predators that eat these turtles could die.

  • Pine Dominated Forest

    Pine dominated forest - USFWS.

    The largest habitat type at James River National Wildlife Refuge is the pine dominated forest. These forests, containing large loblolly stands, were established as a pine plantation prior to the creation of the wildlife refuge. Approximately 2,600 acres of pine forest encompass a contiguous tract in the center of the refuge. The area is currently in the process of being selectively thinned and prescriptively burned to improve forest health. These habitat management actions will benefit a diverse number of animal species (e.g.,brown-headed nuthatch) while also reducing the threat of devastating wildfire within the refuge and the region. 

  • Moist Hardwood Forest

    Moist hardwood forest in fall - USFWS.

    The refuge contains nearly 800 acres of moist hardwood forest. Represented by white oak, American beech, and hickory, this forest is located along the gently sloped periphery of James River NWR. The habitat type is instrumental in supporting a number of game species (e.g., wild turkey, white-tailed deer) as well as a variety of forest dwelling bird species. The expansive track of mature forest offers refuge for wildlife in a regional landscape that is becoming increasingly fragmented.

  • Floodplain Forest

    Floodplain forest - USFWS.

    This moist soil environment is composed of a dense canopy of deciduous trees that include green ash, black gum, bald cypress, red maple, and cottonwood. This habitat type serves an important role in buffering the effects of extreme weather, while providing a haven for species that utilize both land and water features. The goal is to protect, maintain, and restore the integrity of the refuge’s floodplain forest for native plants and wildlife, including species of conservation concern, and benefit terrestrial and aquatic resources of the James River watershed and Chesapeake Bay.