Closer to the Gulf Stream than it is to the mainland, Ocracoke Island is a birdwatcher’s dream, with more than 400 species having been observed here, including out-of-range rarities blown in from major storms. Much like the people on the island, there are birds that are year-round residents, summer and winter visitors, and those just passing through on their way farther north or south. Each season has birds leaving and others arriving.
During the summer months, you’ll commonly see Brown Pelicans and several species of gulls and terns flying overhead. The beach has scurrying Sanderlings and more stately Willets. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the federally protected land which comprises most of the island, has Eastern Meadowlarks, Boat-tailed Grackles, White Ibis, and several species of herons and egrets. In fall, you might spot a Peregrine Falcon or Double-crested Cormorant, while winter brings Snowy Owls and Northern Gannetts.
Appreciating birdlife can run from casual interest to hardcore birding. Binoculars and a spotting scope make for the easiest viewing. And as with all wildlife, don’t get too close. This island is their safe space after all. To learn more about Ocracoke Island birdlife and to hear samples of their calls, visit the nature section at Ocracoke Observer.