Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge protects one of the largest remaining expanses of tidal salt marsh in the mid-Atlantic region. The refuge, located along the coast of Delaware, is mostly marsh, but also includes freshwater impoundments and upland habitats that are managed for other wildlife.
Bombay Hook was established in 1937 as a link in the chain of refuges extending from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. It is primarily a refuge and breeding ground for migrating birds and other wildlife. The value and importance of Bombay Hook for migratory bird protection and conservation has increased through the years, primarily due to the management of the refuge and the loss of high quality habitat along the Atlantic Flyway.
Bombay Hook is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Portions are also designated a research natural area. The refuge, a nationally recognized birding spot attracting birders from across the country, is designated a Globally Important Bird Area. The Refuge, as well as the entire State of Delaware, is part of the New England/Mid Atlantic Coast Bird Conservation Region Implementation Plan (BCR 30).
Migrating and wintering waterfowl flock to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) each fall and winter. Common species include northern pintail, American black ducks, green-winged teal, Canada geese, and snow geese. They can be found feeding in the refuge’s managed freshwater impoundments or loafing in the adjacent expanses of salt marsh.
Bombay Hook NWR is an important stop on the Delaware Bay for thousands of migrating shorebirds every spring, as they make their critical trip north to their breeding grounds. At low tide they can be seen feeding by the thousands on the salt marsh mudflats along the wildlife drive. The refuge’s freshwater impoundments also provide mudflat habitats as they are drawn down each spring. During late summer and early fall, southbound migrating shorebirds also visit the refuge as they fly towards their wintering grounds. Common species include semipalmated sandpipers, dunlin, dowitchers, yellowlegs, semipalmated plovers, American avocets, and many more.
Tidal Salt Marsh
Bombay Hook NWR is known for its vast expanse of tidal salt marsh, among the largest unfragmented marsh in the mid-Atlantic. Although only a portion of the marsh is visible to the public along the wildlife drive, this is arguably the most valuable habitat on the refuge. Salt marshes are on the decline worldwide, and are home to many species of conservation concern, such as American black ducks, salt marsh sparrows, and sharp-tailed sparrows. Refuge staff is actively engaged in research and monitoring programs to better understand this treasured habitat, and to identify opportunities for possible restoration.
Managed freshwater impoundments are one way that Bombay Hook NWR provides important feeding and resting habitat for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and year-round resident species. The refuge has four such impoundments – Raymond Pool, Shearness Pool, Bear Swamp Pool, and Finis Pool – and each one is a little unique. Water levels are managed on a seasonal basis to provide mudflats for migrating shorebirds in the spring, then flooded in the fall to give dabbling ducks access to the seeds of the plants that germinate over the summer. Situated along the wildlife drive, these impoundments provide some of the best wildlife viewing in the regio