GREAT OUTDOORS: South Padre is for the birds

Great Outdoors pic2-4-25-13

Special to the Parade

Great Outdoors pic1-4-25-13Crossing the Queen Isabella Causeway will give the visitor and local alike a view of part of the Lower Laguna Madre.

This narrow sand spit offers much more than just the crowds of Spring Break or beach goers enjoying the surf and sand. The little island offers some of the best birding Texas has to offer.

There are several locations on the island selected as top spots by birders for all over the country. “We have seen more species in one day than we saw in a month at home,” said one birder from Nebraska.

Driving to and from the north jetties, or the north end of South Padre, can be an adventure in itself. Four wheeled vehicles are many times required. Driving slowly along the edge of the water will find enough terns, gulls, and plovers to make them happy. Many will see an osprey or brown pelicans hunting the shallows.

Nearing the Convention Center there are several large sand flats where along with the sail borders, there can be rafts of black skimmers, more terns, and other species.

One of the most interesting locations on the Island is the adjoining Convention Center, a well-maintained water feature (thanks Scarlet and George) and bird-feeding stations that attracts many migrating dropouts and native species alike. A short distance away is the boardwalk extending into the bay.

This boardwalk is the path to watch many additional species such as great blue herons, tri-colored herons, snowy egrets, rosette spoonbills, and a variety of wading birds and waterfowl. It should be mentioned the Lower Laguna Madre boasts the largest concentrations of the redhead ducks in the Central Flyway. Just walking the boardwalk can take a birder all afternoon, morning, or for some, all day.

There is also the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, the great yellow building just before the Convention Center. This center is not a part of the World Birding Center (WBC). A source reports the operators of the yellow building are now blocking access to the boardwalk for birders entering from the Convention Center walk.

At the Convention Center there is no admission fee and you will see as many species of birds.

Other good birding sites on the Island are the Valley Land Fund birding area located just off the main drag and the county park at the South end of the Island.

South Padre Island is a great place to bird from the north to the south and many places in between. Please remember that there is private property on the Island and the owner’s rights must be respected.

Editor’s Note: To see more of Jim’s writing and photography go to: If you have comments or news for Jim Foster, email him at

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