With its vast expanses of shallow waters and wetlands, the Chesapeake Bay is
a waterfowl magnet. It’s situated along the Atlantic flyway, so migrating
birds often stop or winter here en route from their northern summer breeding
Once, there were millions. They could change the landscape when they lifted
off from a creek or field, turning the sky black as their beating wings thundered.
Today, though, the Bay sees far fewer waterfowl. Declining quantities and
types of underwater grasses, overhunting, more people and a shrinking habitat
have cut their overall numbers to about one million. Within each species, numbers
change all the time. The Canada goose population, for instance, has been on
the rise. But diving ducks such as scaup and ruddy ducks recently have suffered
The diversity of species and sheer numbers in the past created a tradition
of waterfowl hunting that bordered on a passion and put food on many tables.
This sport still thrives, though on a much smaller scale. Even as early as the
mid-1800s, conservationists and state regulators worried about the wholesale
slaughter of waterfowl. So they began to restrict what methods hunters could
use and limited their take, close regulation that continues today.
The waterfowling tradition also produced one of the Bay’s loveliest
folk art forms—decoy carving. Hunters made the decoys to float nearby,
drawing the real birds within shooting range. Eventually, the carving itself
became art, and what were humble working decoys are now soughtafter collectibles
worth thousands of dollars.
Waterfowl continue to be an integral part of the Chesapeake. The beat of a
tundra swan’s wings on a cold winter morning, or the call of Canada geese
in the fall, remain indelible Bay experiences.
Waterfowling on the Lower Eastern
This tour lets visitors examine the art and evolution of decoy carving based
in the waterfowling tradition, then travel to a remote refuge to mingle with
Northern Bay Waterfowling
This tour lets visitors learn how waterfowling and decoy carving evolved on
the northern Chesapeake, then visit the body of water that supported those linked
Waterfowl on the Middle Bay
This tour takes visitors to two wildlife refuges where tens of thousands of
geese, ducks and swans spend the winter or visit while migrating.