Date: April 25, 2018
Nature Tourism 

Great Hawk Spotted on Shores of South Padre Island

This is the first spotting of the Great Black Hawk on the Island in U.S. records

South Padre Island, Texas April 25, 2018 On April 24, during the peak of bird spring migration through South Padre Island and coastal Texas, a Great Black Hawk was spotted on the shores of South Padre Island. This sighting is the first U.S. record of the species on the Island. The hawk was found at the Valley Land Fund migratory bird stop-over lots on W. Sheepshead Street by local birders.

Photo Credit: South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center

This large Neotropical raptor normally ranges from coastal Mexico to South America where it frequents coastal wetland habitats but had never been recorded in the United States prior. In the western United States, a Common Black Hawk is similar, but a Great Black Hawk is larger and has a different tail pattern. The bird can be a new species for the American Birding Association checklist, once reviewed and approved by the records committee.

“For nature and wildlife enthusiasts, South Padre Island provides an ideal blend of land and sea habitats to explore in the summer and fall seasons,” said South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Keith Arnold. “This Great Black Hawk sighting exemplifies the Island’s appeal as a premier nature tourism destination as rare and spectacular species continue to flock to our tropical shorelines.”

This new record of the Great Black Hawk continues South Padre Island’s ongoing streak of attracting rare tropical vagrants as another first US record of species was recorded on at the same lots ten years ago in 2008, and a first Texas record bird was recorded at the SPI Birding & Nature Center during the fall of 2016.

South Padre Island’s location along a major bird migratory route and between the shallows of Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico creates ideal conditions for an extensive variety of birds. More than 300 species of birds call the Island home for part or most of the year, and vast expanses of saltwater flats, lagoons and marshes on the Island’s eastern side provide a home for shorebirds and waterfowl.

The South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center is considered by many to be the Rio Grande Valley’s premier destination for birdwatching. Situated along the wetlands of the Laguna Madre Bay, it features exhibits on the Island’s birds and other natural features, along with a five-story viewing tower, viewing blinds and boardwalk nature trails. The trails are adjacent to the existing Laguna Madre Nature Trail, which features two boardwalks: one extending over marshland and the other to Laguna Madre Bay. The Center offers guided birding tours seven days a week.

For media inquiries, please contact Cristin Howard (South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center) at (956) 761-6801 or email

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