Hatteras Island Birding


For the first time in many years, an odd phenomenon has happened in the South. The snowy owl has been spotted in parts of North Carolina as well as Florida. In fact, there have been 14 sightings between Wrightsville and Cape Hatteras and the western part of the state.

Known for their love of cold weather climates, they are native to the Artic and Canada, and migrate during the winter but no further south than the Great Lakes. Experts are not quite sure why they came this far south but think it may be due to climate changes or because they are looking for food. But none the less, they have been seen on the Outer Banks in several locations.

Locally, a snowy owl was seen the area of Cape Point on Hatteras Island around Thanksgiving. It was seen perched on the beach with the wind blowing across the sand. While it is quite a ways past where it is usually seen, experts say that they can see why a snowy owl would land here. The beach is flat and provides a windswept stretch of land so it would make sense that it might stop land here even though it is a bit warmer that time of year than the Arctic (or the Great Lakes for that matter).

If you are unfamiliar with the snowy owl, it is a beautiful white, fluffy owl that has black flecks all over the body and when he flies, his wingspan is huge. This bird is absolutely majestic whether sitting on the dunes or flying across the beach. When ornithologists and bird enthusiasts got wind that this bird had been spotted on the OBX, many jumped in their cars and traveled to the OBX to see this anomaly.

The OBX, known for its fabulous beaches, is a fabulous spot frequented by so many people who spend vacations in Outer Banks locales. As a relatively untouched area of the US, the Outer Banks is made of so much more than sand and sea grass. The OBX also has some of the most beautiful maritime forest and marshlands, and is home to wildlife refuges that are home to hundreds and even thousands of species of animals and…yes you guessed it…birds! It has been recognized on a national level as one of the best bird watching areas on the East Coast.

Just like those who come to surf, fish or even see the wild horses, the OBX is a destination for bird lovers from all over the country. Not only are there dozens of birds that nest and live along the shores of the Outer Banks and thousands more living in the forests and along the marshlands, but thousands of migrating birds stop here on their way further south.

In a 2010 article in National Wildlife Magazine, top ornithologists rated the Cape Hatteras National Seashore as one of the top bird watching spots in the country during the spring. Nick Brinkley, author of theNational Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North Americas, has been coming to the OBX since he was very young and loves to go during the spring months to bird watch.

If you like bird watching and are thinking about coming to the Outer Banks, listen to the experts and spend a long weekend or even a week this spring with us. As a premiere vacation rental company, we have excellent accommodations in any of our Outer Banks rentals all along the barrier islands. We can help you with your plans for bird watching by suggesting areas where you will be mesmerized by what you see as well as where you can find guided tours.

Now that spring is coming, the snowy owl is probably in route back to the Arctic but who knows; maybe the owl really liked being here and is planning a return visit next winter. Most everyone who visits the OBX comes back year after year. The snowy owl just might have the same idea!