Padre Island is a gorgeous island off the southern coast of Texas, the largest of the Texas barrier islands and the longest barrier island in the world. If you are looking for some incredible bird watching, this is the place to visit in Texas. The central part of Padre Island is preserved in its natural state as the Padre Island National Seashore, and it is here that you will find almost 400 species of birds, passing through at one time or another. (This is almost half the number of entire species of birds documented in North America!)
South Padre Island is located on the “Central Flyway”, the major migration route to and from North, Central and South America. What more could you ask for in a bird watching spot? This Texas island also has a variety of habitats for different birds, making bird watching that much more exciting. (For example, beaches, coastal prairies, wind tidal flats – which are rare – wetlands and ponds.) For tips for finding and identifying some of the birds you will observe on Texas’ Padre Island, see below.
Black Skimmer. This bird is easy to identify by its large red and black bill, which is extremely thin, with the lower part longer than the top. It has white underparts, a black back and cap, and very short red legs. Look for it while bird watching on Padre Island as it flies along the water, dragging its bill to catch fish. The skimmer is easier to find at dawn or dusk.
White-Tailed Hawk. This bird’s white tail, with a black band at the tip, is quite unique, making it easy to spot when bird watching. A medium sized hawk with a gray head and back, look for it on Padre Island in open or sparsely wooded areas. Its wings extend beyond its tail when perched, another distinction you can look for when identifying this bird.
Eastern Meadowlark. A stocky songbird with a short tail, look for its yellow throat, chest and belly when bird watching. It also has a black V on its chest. Look for this bird in grasslands on Padre Island. The Eastern Meadowlark is not a lark at all, but a member of the same family as blackbirds and orioles.
White Pelicans. One of the largest birds in North America, you’ll know this all white bird by its big bill and distinctive pouch. White Pelicans winter on Padre Island, and you’ll see them scooping up fish with that bill while bird watching for them along the water. (This pelican does not dive for fish as the Brown Pelican does.)
Magnificent Frigratebird. Look for the long wings and forked tail of this seabird while bird watching on Padre Island. (This is aside from the unmistakable orange sac the males inflate while courting.) You can often see it snatching food off the ocean surface, or even from other birds.
Northern Gannet. You’ll see this large, white bird while bird watching on the coast of Padre Island, where flocks of these birds dive from heights of over one hundred feet, making a spectacular show. Look for its long pointed bill and wings. When the gannet dives for fish it is usually a shallow dip, but they have been known to swim more than seventy feet deep in pursuit of fish.