Galveston Island Birding

Is Galveston good for birders?

Yes! Galveston Island is a birder’s paradise! In addition to the multitude of year-round feathered residents, Galveston is a prime spot for thousands of birds stopping by on their annual migration. 

New & migratory species come to Galveston Island all year long, and birders can use our by-the-month guide to plan their visit. As Galveston Ornithological Society Executive Director Jim Stevens points out, even during the cooler winter months, there's an abundance of birds flocking to our shores, including herons, egrets, ibis and roseate spoonbills. 

Eight Houston Audubon Sanctuaries are located near Galveston Island, including those just across the ferry on the Boliver Peninsula and at High Island. Expanses of Gulf front beaches, uplands, salt marshes, and extremely productive mud flats are ideal nesting, feeding and breeding sites for hundreds of thousands of birds each year. The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network designated the Bolivar Flats as a “site of hemispheric importance.” Mid-March to mid-May is the peak migration season for this gem of the Gulf Coast, and the rookery at High Island is a noisy nursery of adorable chicks and well-plumed adults during this time.

Download the Galveston Area Birding Checklist before you arrive on the island and see how many species you can spot! 

collage of people birding and different types of birds in galveston 

Where is the best place to bird on Galveston Island?

You’ll find feathered friends throughout the island, but there are definitely several hot spots you don’t want to miss! Highlights include:

Take a look at our interactive map further down this page – complete with the species you can expect to see! – or check out these West End and East End Birding Itineraries assembled by Kristine Rivers of Birding for Fun, a local master naturalist who offers guided birding tours that are great for all ages and experience levels!

 

Birding on Galveston Island’s West End

Be sure to take advantage of these West End Galveston birding hot spots during your stay at a Sand `N Sea vacation rental:

Oppenheimer Birding Observatory – In partnership with Artist Boat, the Gulf Coast Design Lab at The University of Texas at Austin designed this project located along Stewart Road, overlooking the Coastal Heritage Preserve. Breaking ground as the first public pull-off birding access along Stewart Road, this observatory was unveiled in April 2019.

Designed & constructed by UT students over the course of a single semester, the observatory is styled as a long walkway flanked with two types of walls. The southern wall is finished with poly-carbonate panels to increase visibility from the road, while shielding the visitors from the sun and cars. The northern wall is composed of horizontal 2×4 panels to hide visitors from the birds while still allowing them to use binoculars and other equipment.

Sportsman Road – At the end of 8 Mile Road, this marsh area features clapper rails, tricolored herons, American oystercatchers, and more!

Settegast Road – Take a drive through the undeveloped ranch land off of Stewart Road that provides spring habitat for whimbrels, long-billed curlews, and American golden-plovers.

Lafittes Cove Nature Preserve – Located on the eastern edge of the subdivision, this is an ideal resting place for migrant land birds like warblers, tanagers, and orioles during their Gulf crossings each year. www.laffitescovenaturesociety.org

3 Trees – Site of a historic battle between privateer Jean Laffite and the Karankawa Indians, this spot, located near the entrance to Laffites Cove, offers a chance to see many members of the ever-changing population of birds that call Galveston home.

Galveston Island State Park – Join the Friends of GISP on weekend mornings for a guided walking tour of the beach and bay sides of the park with a chance to view hundreds of birds including white-tailed kites, caracaras, ospreys, ibis, and plenty more! www.fogisp.wordpress.com

Dos Vacas Muertas – Located on a dirt road at the far eastern edge of Sea Isle, this 6-acre sanctuary created by the late George Clayton includes a pond and stands of salt cedars for traveling flycatchers, warblers, vireos, and more!

San Luis Pass – One of the most productive areas in Texas for migrating and nesting birds; view terns, herons, Wilson’s plovers, and, if you’re lucky, the endangered piping plover – just to name a few!

 

Galveston Birding Guides

Make the most of your island birding vacation by planning a guided tour with a local expert!

Kristine Rivers

As the founder of Birding for Fun, Kristine hosts private tours for up to 8 people in an air-conditioned/heated car or passenger van. Her tours are ideal for birders of all ages, and work especially well for enthusiasts with limited mobility. As a master naturalist, Kristine also offers classes & workshops throughout the year. Contact her at kristine@birdingforfun.com to set up your guided tour.

Jim Stevenson

Jim is the Executive Director of the Galveston Ornithological Society, and is happy to offer his services as a professional guide to lead visitors on area birding tours. Jim hosts an array of tours throughout the country during the year, so make sure you plan ahead! Reach Jim at galornsoc@earthlink.net. Additional information can be found at www.galvestonbirders.org.

Artist Boat

Enjoy guided and interpretive tours of Galveston’s marshes in the company of a biologist or artist for an enriching, environmental, and artistic experience for all ages! Bring your binoculars for a chance to catch site of local & migratory species during your 2- or 3-hour kayak adventure. Check their schedule at www.artistboat.org or contact them directly at info@artistboat.org.

 

When is FeatherFest?

This annual birding & nature photo festival takes place every April, at the height of spring migration. Perfect for fledglings or lifetime birders, the 4-day FeatherFest is full of field trips, workshops, contests and social events.

Have a younger birder? Don't miss FledglingFest, where kids ages 6+ have the chance to learn the basics of doing a bird survey, get up close and personal at the Birds of Prey Raptor Show, learn species identification tips and more!

 

bird watching on galveston island 

Planning Your Birding Trip to Galveston

A bayfront or beachfront Galveston Island vacation rental is the perfect place to nest during your birding vacation! Choose from over 155+ homes on the beach or bay. Bird from the deck with your binoculars in one hand and your coffee in the other; and watch a huge variety of shorebirds dart in and out of the surf.

Sand `N Sea also offers a variety of pet friendly vacation rentals – so your whole family can enjoy an island vacation!

Browse our beach homes online, email us at info@sandnsea.com, or call us at 409.797.5500 and speak to a member of our reservations team. Our team of local experts would love to help you plan your Galveston Island birding trip!

 Photo credits include: Jeff Sexton, Dan Lotan & Kristine Rivers

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