Located along the Atlantic flyway in northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge provides a sanctuary for thousands of migratory waterfowl, with emphasis on the greater snow goose. Every fall and winter, ducks, geese and swans fill the marshes and bays of this 8,320 acre refuge.
Types of waterfowl that use the refuge include Canada geese, tundra swans, and many species of ducks, including mallards, black ducks, green and blue winged teal, pintails, shovelers, wood ducks, gadwall and widgeon. The refuge attracts many species of wading birds such as glossy ibises, cattle, snowy and great egrets, and great blue, little blue, and green herons. Northern harriers are seen during the winter soaring over the marshes. In the summer, osprey use dead trees and nesting platforms to raise their young. Bald eagles nest in the area, and on occasion, peregrine falcons and other birds of prey are spotted hunting over the refuge.
Other forms of wildlife that thrive on the refuge include muskrat, river otter, raccoon, gray and red fox, and whitetail deer. Turtles and snakes are found in abundance. Several frog species can also be heard singing in the spring and summer.
A variety of wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities are available on the refuge. The Great Marsh Trail, a .3 mile loop, provides a scenic journey through a swamp-like habitat and is home to a variety of songbirds, small mammals, reptiles, and other creatures. The Kuralt Trail and Hegge Impoundment Overlooks provide an elevated platform for an excellent view of the Great Marsh and managed impoundments. The Mackay Island and Live Oak Point trails also provide good wildlife observation opportunities. A disabled accessible fishing pier can be found on the East Pool impoundment and a small boat ramp is also available for access into the marshes.