The national wildlife refuge at Chincoteague, Virginia, is one of the newest in a chain of sanctuaries placed along the flight lanes of the waterfowl. Coming down from the north the principal links of the chain are Parker River, Montezuma, Susquehanna, Brigantine, and Bombay Hook. Then from Chincoteague the links run south, through Back Bay and Pea Island, Mattamuskeet and Cape Romain. Chincoteague, like other waterfowl refuges, is needed because birds migrate, and because in so doing they expose themselves to great dangers.
The migration of birds is one of the ancient spectacles of earth, and one of the most mysterious. But while we know little about why birds migrate or how they find their way over enormous distances, common sense tells us this: like human travelers, birds must have places where they can stop in safety for food and rest.
Once there were plenty of natural hostelries for the migrants. That was before our expanding civilization had drained the marshes, polluted the waters, substituted resort towns for wilderness. That was in the days when hunters were few. In those days our waterfowl probably numbered 200 million. Now only a small remnant of this number is left.
If we are to preserve the remaining waterfowl, and the sports and recreations which depend on them, we must set apart for the birds refuges like Chincoteague, where they may find these simple and necessary creature requirements: food, rest, security.
Chincoteague was selected as a refuge site because the biologists of the Fish and Wildlife Service, after years of searching for the best spot to fill the gap between the refuges at Bombay Hook and Back Bay, decided that this wild seacoast island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia would provide protection and breeding territory for the greatest number of species. Purchase of this site for a refuge was approved by the Migratory Bird Commission in 1942; and the refuge was formally placed under administration by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1945.