Kiptopeke State Park

Tips for Birding

If you spend the whole day birding the park at no particular location or are interested in historical records of birds seen in the park, use this hotspot. Otherwise, look for more specific hotspots that target certain habitat types throughout the park. 

About this Location

Opened in May 1992 with 375 acres on the former grounds of the Kiptopeke Beach Family Resort, Kiptopeke State Park has expanded to 562 acres as of 2009. The site was used for farming until its development as the northern terminus for the Eastern Shore Ferry (1950-1964), and the traces of that terminal area remain part of the park, at the western end of Kiptopeke Drive. The park retains over 100 acres in scrub-shrub habitat managed specifically for migratory songbirds, with the remainder in Loblolly Pine forest, dune scrub, open beach, freshwater pond (Taylor Pond), and recreational/camping areas.

The mix of habitats means that most migratory species, excepting those that favor mudflats, farm fields, or salt marsh, pass through and often rest here, particularly during autumn months, when many juvenile birds attempt to use the Atlantic coast (rather than interior routes) on their first southbound transit to wintering areas.

For 50 years, Kiptopeke area was the site of a bird-banding study, which concluded in 2012. That study documented some locally very rare or extirpated species, including 6 Bewick’s Wrens (1968-1981), 4 Loggerhead Shrikes (1966-1977), and 2 Black-capped Chickadees (1978, 1983), as well as the first state record of MacGillivray’s Warbler (8 November 2005). More importantly, the study provided a mountain of data (over 350,000 birds banded) on the status of 163 species here, most of them migratory. Records of declining species such as Bicknell’s Thrush, Kentucky Warbler, and Golden-winged Warbler in that study are especially precious. In addition, the park hawkwatch, established in 1977 and in annual operation since then by the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory, has counted more than 813,138 raptors of 20 species (as of 30 November 2017).

About Kiptopeke State Park

See all hotspots at Kiptopeke State Park

Must-visit destination during fall and winter, with full-time raptor monitoring September 1 through November 30, and numerous trails through shrub-scrub and pine forest as well as sheltered harbor, sandy beaches, and excellent view of lower Chesapeake Bay. Just off the shoreline, the old ferry landing, decommissioned with the advent of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, is marked by a series of partially submerged aged concrete ships.  These old hulks provide nesting habitat for gulls and Brown Pelicans,  and structure for fish.

On Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore, explored by Capt. John Smith in 1608, Kiptopeke offers recreational access to the Chesapeake Bay. It's also a great place to explore unique migratory bird habitat along the Atlantic flyway. 

Content from Birding Eastern Shore summary and Kiptopeke State Park webpage (Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources)

Last updated May 22, 2023