Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory


CVWO is a non-profit organization founded in 1994 with a mission of "protecting wildlife through field research, education and habitat conservation.

Our multiple and diverse wildlife research projects contribute to national science databases, local educational programs, and a furthering of our insight and stewardship into our natural world.

The Observatory is committed to the study of birds and butterflies and to conservation. The area around the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, in coastal Virginia, with its varied habitat types, is globally significant for migratory birds and hosts a tremendous diversity of wildlife. More rare birds have been found here than anywhere else in Virginia.

The Observatory was begun in 1994 as a 501(C) 3 non-profit organization, to expand on the songbird and hawk studies that were begun by volunteers in 1963 on land which later became Kiptopeke State Park, on Virginia's Eastern Shore. In addition to conducting programs at Kiptopeke and other Eastern Shore sites, we're involved in activities near Richmond, Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

We accomplish our field research through the hiring of seasonal biologists and a corps of dedicated volunteers. Our data is sent to a number of international databases for sharing and analysis. We provide educational material on the website, through printed literature and through presentations to visitors.

We trust that individuals, schools and other organizations will find our website and our organization a valuable resource. We invite you explore the website, to visit our programs...see the calendar for more ask questions through our contact page and to read our newsroom and blog for updates.

Also, please feel free to share your thoughts on our social media pages.

Interested in joining the wildlife conservation effort? Select the membership button! Your support is important!

Become a member, support our projects and share our work on social media!

Why It's Important

A Global Migration Hotspot

Satellite photo of the lower Chesapeake Bay area, showing the diverse geographic features and illustrating how birds traveling down the Atlantic coast during late summer and fall migration become concentrated at a critical stopover site at the tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, near Kiptopeke.

Some birds cross the 30 kilometer stretch of water to the Virginia mainland shore, while others return north to search for an alternate route. During spring migration, birds generally travel up the western shore of Chesapeake Bay. First Landing State Park, in the midst of a huge urban area, is an important spring migration site.

Map Key:

  1. Chesapeake Bay
  2. York River
  3. James River
  4. Kiptopeke State Park
  5. Eastern Shore of Virginia and Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuges
  6. First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach
  7. Atlantic Ocean

Satellite photo NASA Earth Observatory

Research projects

Support your local wildlife with a CVWO membership!

Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory


About Us

Raptor Research

The Kiptopeke fall Hawkwatch was established by volunteers in 1977, and has recorded nearly 900,000 hawks and vultures of 19 species.


A major part of the Observatory's mission is environmental education. Seasonal research staff, an Environmental Educator and volunteers provide on-site presentations about our programs and about migration in the Chesapeake Bay area of coastal Virginia.

Waterbird Research

CVWO conducts its own surveys and also helps with those of other organizations to document the movements of waterbirds in coastal Virginia.

Songbird Research

CVWO has operated the Kiptopeke Songbird Station since 1995 with paid staff and volunteers documenting the spectacular fall migration.

Butterfly Research

The Observatory has documented more than 70 species of butterflies and skippers at the tip of the Eastern Shore, where little butterfly work has been conducted.