Birding in Port O’Connor

Pair of rare Whooping Cranes

Bird watching is growing in popularity as a recreational activity along the Texas Gulf Coast, with Port O’Connor being one of the best birding “hot spots” in the state.

For the last five years the area surrounding Port O’Connor has held the record for the most bird species spotted, in not only the state, but the nation!

In April 1997, Port O’Connor was included in the first annual State of Texas Birding contest, the Great Texas Birding Classic. Noted as the longest birding competition ever conducted in the United States, teams of avid birders competed over a three-day period, throughout three different geographic regions, along a 624-mile stretch of the Texas Gulf coast. The object of the contest was to record the highest possible number of bird species spotted in each region.

Winners of the Birding Classic were awarded a $40,000 “Cash Grand Prize for Conservation,” which was allocated to an approved coastal bird conservation project of their choice.

White Pelicans, photo courtesy of James Prince

Springtime is the peak season for birds making their way to the Port O’Connor area. Throughout the town site and along Boggy Bayou visitors will see White and Brown Pelicans, Lesser Golden Plovers and Pectoral Sandpipers. Also to be spotted are wood warblers, buntings, orioles, tanagers, thrushes, a variety of terns and gulls, black skimmers, American oystercatchers and several species of ducks.

While visiting Port O’Connor and its waterways, a visitor must not neglect a trip to Sundown Island, also known locally as Bird Island. The island, made from the dredging of the Matagorda Ship Channel back in the 60s, has now become the home of at least 18 species of birds, such as snowy egrets, scarlet ibis, roseate spoonbills, reddish egrets, great blue herons, cormorants, oystercatchers, black skimmers, white-faced ibis and a variety of gulls and terns. An impressive 25,000 nesting pairs of birds hatch their young here during the springtime. It is advised that birders enjoy the view of this spoil island from their boat, so as not to disturb the birds and cause them to abandon their nests. The island is also one of the few brown pelican rookeries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Osprey, courtesy of James Prince

During the summer months, an estimated 37 species of waterfowl, songbirds and shorebirds are known to nest near Port O’Connor, specifically on Matagorda Island. This is the season to observe nesting white-tailed hawks, black-shouldered kites, wilson plovers and least terns, wood storks and the magnificent frigate birds.

A boat trip to Matagorda Island or to other Island beaches will provide additional opportunities to see magnificent Frigate birds in summer, Black Skimmers, Reddish Egrets, Nestling Ploves and Least Tern, Peregrine Falcon and migrating shorebirds in Fall.