I take a break and catch a dose of sea breeze at bird blind No. 3 over the Laguna Madre as I watch Royal Terns plunge into the water. The tide is low, and I am treated to great views of Reddish Egrets dancing and Black Skimmers skimming the surface of the laguna for their fish. Continuing on toward bird blind No. 4, the habitat starts to transition into freshwater wetlands, and with patience I find a Least Bittern as I scan the base of the cattails.
Just ahead, the barking of Black-necked Stilts leads me to a large shallow pond where a variety of wetland birds give me one more amazing show to finish off a wonderful morning.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
50 acres of coastal wetlands made up of salt marsh and freshwater ponds, some wooded habitat around visitor center.
Half-mile boardwalk, completely wheelchair-accessible.
330 species. Clapper Rail, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, Tricolored and Green Herons, Reddish Egret, Least Bittern, Mottled Duck, Northern Pintail, Redhead, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black Skimmer, Royal and Least Terns, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, American Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Black-bellied and Wilson’s Plovers, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-necked Stilt, Willet, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, 41 warbler species. Rarities: Yellow-green Vireo, Slate-throated Redstart, Variegated Flycatcher.
When to go
Best during migration: Mid-April to early May and September to November.
Raised boardwalk, guided tours, visitor center offers five-story observation tower, restrooms, museum, visitor observation list, introductory video, binocular rental, and gift shop.
Nonprofit wildlife sanctuary. Open 7 days a week (times vary according to season). Fees: adults $6, seniors 55+ and students 13-18 $5, children 4-12 years old $3, children under 4 free with paid adult.
Bring a hat, sun block, and water in summer, warm windbreaker in winter, and watch for low tides in the tide charts for best winter birding. Early morning offers great lighting for photos. Check website for guided tour schedule.
For more info
South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center, (956) 761-6801
Great Texas Wildlife Trails
Valley Land Fund Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Wooded lots serving as a migratory bird rest-stop on W. Sheepshead Street on South Padre Island. Best in migration, with warblers, buntings, tanagers, vireos, tropical vagrants.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
20 miles west of South Padre Island. Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, Plain Chachalaca, Harris’s Hawk, Golden-fronted Woodpecker.