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dolphin

Sea Life Sightings on South Padre Island

Vivian Farmer
September 12, 2017

South Padre Island’s subtropical climate and calm, warm waters make it a bustling hub for sea animals. During your visits, you can spot some amazing critters– some of which you’ll expect and some that might surprise you.

Cute Crustaceans

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There are at least 41 species of crustaceans on the island– that’s a lot of scuttling critters to look out for! The most common is the ghost crab, a small and cute crab with white to light yellowish coloring and 2 jelly-bean sized black eyes. Ghost crabs are usually covered in sand for camouflage and they can run up to 10mph, both reasons for the name “ghost.” Keep your eyes peeled at dusk or night and you might spot one of South Padre Island’s “ghosts.”

Another common land crab is the Blackback Land Crab This colorful crab is bright orange and red with a black circle on its back. It spends most of its time digging tunnels in the marshes on the island, but it will pop out at night to scavenge.

Fantastic Fish

Schools of brightly colored fish frequent the shores and deeper waters off South Padre Island. In February, sought after pompano fill the beachfront. These little fish are popular for sport fishing. The have a short snout and bluish-green dorsal fins. Reddrum can also be found in shallow waters, especially juveniles. As adults, Reddrum have a dusky reddish-orange color and 1 or 2 black spots, about the size of a half-dollar, on their backs.

If you venture out into deeper waters, you’ll discover a plethora of trophy fish including King Mackerel, Marlin, Tuna, and the iconic Sailfish with its large blueish-purple sail ridged along its back and a long pointed bill.

Dolphins

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Of course, if you spend any time out on the water, you’re bound to spot a favorite: dolphins. Dolphins frequent the waters off the island year-round and there are 2 species that live and play around the island.

The most common and well-known dolphin, the Bottlenose dolphin is the species you are most likely to spot. These playful dolphins are a joy to watch. They jump and make splashes for fun and might even make vocalizations. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a baby dolphin.

Spinner dolphins are less common than Bottlenose dolphins but can still be sited, year-round, from South Padre Island. These dolphins are small and quite agile. They love to spin and like Bottlenose dolphins, will jump and splash for fun.

Roaming Rays

While you’re out looking for colorful fish and playful dolphins, you might also spot a ray. These graceful creatures use their flat bodies and powerful wing-like fins to cruise effortlessly. The Cownose ray is one of the ray species that frequents the waters of South Padre Island. These rays travel in small schools and sometimes leap out of the water and smack the water with their bellies. They are normally quite docile. This ray gets the name “Cownose” because its heads looks like a cow’s nose.

Sea Turtles

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Finally, keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles. South Padre Island is a sea turtle’s paradise. All 5 of the sea turtle species found in the Gulf of Mexico have nested on the island. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is the most common, but you’ll also have the chance to spot Leatherback, Hawksbill, Loggerhead and green sea turtles.

Watching turtle hatchlings make a break for the sea is an amazing experience. Kemps Ridley hatchlings are common on the island and hatch between June and August.

There’s no doubt about it, South Padre Island is your place to go to see amazing sea life.