A person holds a blue crab up to the camera.
Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)

NPS Photo / Starke Jett

As the nation's largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay is home to a stunning array of wildlife. Stretching from the coast of Virginia to the mountain lakes of New York, many different types of habitat make up the watershed.

Coastlines are home to a diversity of shorebirds, from the great blue heron to the piping plover. Beavers and osprey keep busy in rich marshlands. Flocks of turkeys stampede through rolling forests, and fish swim upriver in great numbers to breed in freshwater streams.

The Chesapeake Bay is home to some 18 million people as well. But wildlife can still be found in even the most populous cities. You'll find anemones, sponges, and barnacles clinging to harbor docks, and peregrine falcons making their nests on the roofs of tall buildings.

The Chesapeake Bay is a major stop on the Atlantic flyway - a north-south corridor for migratory birds. Millions of birds spend the winter in the Bay's waters. Several rivers throughout the Bay also support large populations of Bald Eagles. Their numbers have recovered from just sixty breeding pairs in the 1970s to over 2,000 breeding pairs today.

Last updated: May 13, 2021

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