There is an amazing variety of species to be seen!
While many people think of spring as the best time to bird on Galveston Island, I disagree! My favorite time of year to bird is actually right now in the fall. The weather is absolutely gorgeous, there are fewer people out and about, and fall migration is in full swing. The Island provides critical habitat for birds that overwinter here, including raptors, shorebirds, waterfowl, cranes, sparrows, and many more.
pictured: White Pelican
I start getting excited when our Ospreys, American Kestrels, and Belted Kingfishers return — watch for these species perched on high lines and utility poles, along with other raptors and birds of prey. Although kestrels and kingfishers are notoriously tricky to photograph, if you happen across an Osprey eating a freshly caught fish, you will likely find it to be very accommodating.
Another sure sign of fall is the sight of long, graceful lines of White Pelicans soaring silently overhead. When I was young, Brown Pelicans were endangered and not found in the Galveston area; only White Pelicans were present at that time. Now thanks to successful preservation efforts, Brown Pelicans are common year-round, and you can still see White Pelicans, but only during fall and winter. It’s fascinating to observe the difference in the foraging behaviors of the two species. Whereas Brown Pelicans dive into the water from great heights for fish, White Pelicans work together to “herd” and surround schools of fish, then scoop them up with ease.
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. Sand 'N Sea Properties
An Island favorite, Sandhill Cranes, also soar in long lines overhead, but they are anything but silent! Their loud, distinctive, rolling calls carry on the wind, announcing their arrival well in advance. Look for them foraging in the open fields along Stewart Road near the airport throughout the winter. We’re very proud of the few hundred individuals that overwinter here, celebrating their presence each December with the “Holiday with the Cranes” event, hosted by Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council.
Common Loons will also be arriving soon, and relatively easy to see and photograph near the public boat ramp at Offatts Bayou. Unlike most birds, these “underwater flyers” are equipped with solid bones, giving them the speed needed to chase and capture fish. Watch for them frequently diving as they forage, disappearing from one area and then popping up in another.
I hope this whets your appetite for fall birding — there are so many more species to see and enjoy! If you’re unsure where to visit, check out our self-guided Birding Itineraries on the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council site.
Where The Texas Coast Begins
by Mary Beth Bassett
by Visit Galveston
by Karla Klay
by Captain Michael "Sharky" Marquez
by Kristine Rivers
by Visit Galveston
Kristine Rivers Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council
Kristine Rivers has been an avid birder since childhood. As an adult, she loves sharing her passion for nature with people of all ages, encouraging them to slow down and have fun as they observe the world around them. She founded Birding for Fun in 2015, providing guided tours and workshops that embrace her philosophy that birding should be accessible to everyone.