Avian Ease | How the SPI Birding and Nature Center Offers Respite for the Weary Flyer

The South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary harkens back to the days before the island was developed. With 50 acres of wetland and saltwater marsh, and 3,300 feet of boardwalk crisscrossing over the habitat, the non-profit center allows visitors to view up to 500 different species of migrating birds, as well as alligators, turtles, and even deer.

The coastal area looks west, backing up to the Laguna Madre, providing an ideal, dynamic (and rare) saltwater marsh right on the flight path of birds from all over North and South America. It’s a bonanza for any birder looking to see these magnificent, fragile creatures in their natural environment as they use this island sanctuary as a kind of highway rest stop, flying in to take a breather after the flight over the Gulf of Mexico during migratory periods.

Javier Gonzalez, naturalist and educator at the center, said the stunning marsh and grassy habitat appeals to anyone looking to learn, relax, and appreciate nature.

“This is one the most biodiverse areas in the country. Here we see species of wildlife you see nowhere else. That’s a big draw for a lot of nature enthusiasts,” he said.

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The area provides shelter, water and food for the birds, five shaded bird blinds with seating and a five-story viewing tower looking out over the Laguna Madre for birders. It’s a great place to learn. There are also interpretive walks, guided tours, daily gator talks, wildlife crafts and games, kids wildlife Fridays, and more.

“The spring is a real spectacle,” said Gonzalez, talking about the annual migration period. He said different species arrive daily, giving birders a once in a lifetime delight.  “You think you’ve seen it all here, and then other birds just show up.”

The benefits of birding are numerous, said Gonzalez.

“You come out here and it’s just calming. All the stresses fade out of your mind and it’s great for your mental health,” he said. People come out and walk the boardwalk every day, and he said it’s one of the best sunset spots on the island.

“The birds here are not worried about people, they know they’re in a sanctuary and if you’re part of the boardwalk, they see you as no threat,” said Gonzalez.  “This is a great place to come and observe them, to see how they’re behaving. If you were anywhere else this close, the bird would have flown away. It’s just a fantastic place.”

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About the Author

About the Author: Pat Barcas serves as Creative Resources Manager for RTX, based in Asheville, NC. You can find him hiking the mountains of Asheville, gardening, traveling, and hanging with his growing family. His favorite RTX exchange destinations are Rangeley, Maine, Lake Tahoe, Banff, Canada, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Cape Cod, and Orange Beach, Alabama. .

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