The Chesapeake Bay is the site of one of the world’s great bird migrations. Each spring and fall, hundreds of thousands of geese, ducks, shorebirds, and songbirds find refuge along the Bay’s marshy shoreline. This abundance has created distinct cultures of market gunners, outlaws, hunters, birdwatchers, and collectors.  Discover why the Bay attracts hundreds of thousands of birds each year and how these migrating flocks influence the sport, industry, and art of waterfowling. The Waterfowling Exhibition also includes the most comprehensive public collection of working decoys from the Mid-Atlantic region.  

The exhibit begins with market gunning and outlaw gunners who devised ingenious ways of hunting and getting around conservation laws. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Chesapeake waterfowl was served at elite hotels and men’s clubs in cities along the eastern seaboard. The exhibit also includes the most comprehensive public collections of working decoys from the Mid-Atlantic region. With origins in Indigenous culture, the decoy is truly an American art form. The various schools of Chesapeake decoy carving are represented, along with plastic and factory-made decoys, which led to the evolution of decoy carving into a folk art that has produced the beautiful and life-like decorative decoys popular today.