Creatures you may encounter

Snowy Egret

Notably smaller than the Great Egret, the Snowy Egret has beautiful white plumage, a long black bill and yellow feet. Once nearly extinct, the Snowy Egret has made a comeback, particularly to the shores of our local waterways, state parks and wildlife reserves.




Juvenile Humpback Whale

Each winter, these ocean mammals travel to the food-rich waters at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay to feed on invertebrates and fish. Easily spotted by the dorsal fin (about two thirds down their back), their long thing pectoral fins, and the "hump" or arch formed as they careen out of the water.




Bottle-nose Dolphin

Likely our friendliest and most frequent summer visitor, the bottle-nose dolphin can be recognized by its dorsal fin. Dolphins travel in pods of two to 15, and feed on small fish, squid and crustaceans. The bottle-nose ranges between eight and ten feet in length, and weighs anywhere from 300 to 650 pounds.




Brown Pelican

A group of brown pelicans on their languorous journey down the coast is a beautiful sight. Typically around four feet long with bills that are as long or longer than their heads, their signature naked skin pouch holds up to three gallons of water and fish.




Loggerhead Sea Turtle

The loggerhead turtle is named for its strong, powerful jaw, which can easily crush crabs, shrimp and mollusks for food. With long, paddle-like flippers, they’re adept at swimming and diving. All sea turtles are protected as endangered or threatened, and you can learn about them first-hand at the 70,000 sea turtle tank at the Virginia Marine Science Museum.





The osprey, or fish hawk, is one of the Chesapeake Bay’s most notable inhabitants. With a wingspan of 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 feet, they may be seen over our coastal waters in search of food. Known for nesting on offshore structures like duck blinds, navigational markers and utility poles, the osprey makes its Virginia appearance early in the spring. Osprey mate for life and return to the same nest site year after year to raise their young.



Canada Geese

A common sight along Virginia Beach’s waterways and lakesides, Canada geese can be recognized by their long dark necks and their signature honk. They nest on the ground, and a brood usually consists of 4 to 8 fledglings. As fall and winter arrive, they make a grand departure south, flying in a regal V formation.




Peregrine Falcon

Recently removed from the endangered species list, the falcon sports a slim, short tail, tapered wings, powerful claws (used for capture) and a deadly beak (used for killing prey). The Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding areas make for a good hunting ground, as the peregrine falcon feeds almost exclusively on birds and waterfowl.




Yellow Crowned Night Heron

This elusive bird, although sometimes difficult to spot due to its nocturnal habits, is one of the most beautiful species spotted in the Chesapeake Bay region. More stocky than other heron varieties, they can be found along the water’s edge in heavily shaded areas. Signature features include, of course, the yellow crown, reddish-orange eyes, a spear-shaped bill, and body plumage of gray or powder blue.



Great Blue Heron

This elegant wader, measuring over five feet long from head to claw, is a common sight along the tidal waters of Virginia Beach. You’ll most likely recognize him by his long, lean stature and blue/gray coloring with strong patches of white on the forehead and chest areas. The Blue Heron feeds on insects, amphibians, small mammals and fish struck by its powerful bill.




River Otter

Weighing in at 10 to 25 pounds, the river otter can be found frolicking in the freshwater reserves of Virginia Beach. Chocolate in color, the otter feeds on fish, mussels, frogs, turtles, waterfowl and a variety of invertebrates. Playful by nature, the baby otter can be seen occasionally riding its mother like a surfboard.




White-Tailed Deer

Also known as the Virginia deer, this quiet native abounds as you move west across the state. Standing 3 to 4 feet tall, males can be identified by their branched antlers, which begin growing about a year after birth. Its signature marking, the white on the underside of the tail, waves like a flag when in flight and aids in keeping groups together. Because hunting is highly regulated, the white-tailed deer remains a hearty species in Virginia.




Striped Bass

Sporting between 6 and 9 black stripes running lengthwise down its silvery sides, the striped bass, also known as striper or rockfish, is a favorite of the Virginia fisherman and restaurant patron. Spawning in the spring over shallow, rocky areas, they grow to a length of 10 to 56 inches. Their weight can range from 1 to 59 pounds.




Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab

Another Chesapeake Bay favorite, the blue crab is one of the most popular local ocean dwellers. Named for the blues that color the claws and fins, the crab can be found in most waters in and around Virginia Beach. The largest full-grown jimmies (males) can reach a size of 8 inches across. A "keeper " must have a shell at least 5 inches across and must not have the spongy egg sack of the sook (female), which is protected during mating season.




American Bald Eagle

The bald eagle made its first local home at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Our national bird, with its signature snow-white head, dark brown body, and yellow beak and feet, makes for a regal sight in our local reserves. At 3 feet from head to tail, the male is somewhat smaller than the female, which is known to have a wingspan of up to 8 feet.

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