Birding

Galveston Island is by far one of the best locations for bird spotting in the entire country.

Located right on the main trans-Gulf migration route and boasting a variety of habitats such as beaches, wetlands, grassland, and woods, it’s suitable for advanced birders and novices alike.

pictured: Roseate Spoonbill

Types of Birds in Galveston

Depending on the season and where on the island you are, you could see up to 300 different species of birds. This includes everything from waterbirds (such as ducks and pelicans), to waders (such as plovers, sandpipers) to raptors (such as owls and hawks).

Many species such as Reddish Egret and Brown Pelicans are resident on the island and can be seen year-round. Others such as Scarlet Tanager, Black-and-white Warblers, and Northern Parula visit Galveston briefly when traveling north or south during their biannual migration.

In April, during FeatherFest, the local birding and nature photography festival, it’s common to see a combination of year-round birds, late wintering birds, and birds traveling on their spring migration.

When to Birdwatch

Galveston is an outstanding area for birdwatching at any time of year.

Many birds visit the island en-route during their migrations to and from Central and South America, which means that during spring and fall, you can see the greatest variety.

Whenever you choose to visit, you’re certain to spot a variety of beautiful bird species.

Here are some of the bird species you can expect to see during the different seasons:

  • Spring: Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, Black-and-white Warbler
  • Summer: Reddish Egret, Clapper Rail, Least Tern, Common Nighthawk
  • Fall: Swainson’s Thrush, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Canada Warbler, Franklin’s Gull
  • Winter: Sandhill Crane, American Kestrels, Common Loons, Piping Plover, American Avocet

For more information on which bird species you can spot in Galveston, obtain a copy of the Galveston Island State Park bird checklist.

Click here for an expert bird checklist.

Click here for a beginner bird checklist.

Birds at sunset

Where to go birding in Galveston

Galveston offers more than 20 bird-watching areas around the island. Local favorites include:

Birding in Galveston

East End Lagoon Nature Preserve is the go-to birding location on the island. This 685-acre preserve is a thin strip of land surrounded by zones of different elevations, tides, and salinity. As a result, the wildlife in the area is hugely varied and boasts birds such as black skimmers, terns, sandpipers, herons, egrets, loons, cormorants, pelicans, and birds of prey.

Learn More

Galveston Island State Park

Named one of the top five “Best Gulf Coast Beaches” by Travel Channel in 2013 and located right on the migratory path, Galveston Island State Park is another outstanding birding location. Head to the prairie, salt marsh, beach, or bay to discover a stunning range of birds not usually seen inland.

Other birding hotspots in Galveston include the following:

  • The Edward and Helen Oppenheimer Bird Observatory
  • Kempner Park
  • Corps Woods Nature Sanctuary
  • Laffitte’s Cove Nature Preserve
  • 8-Mile/Sportsman Road

Events

Every April, Galveston hosts FeatherFest, a widely acclaimed birding, and nature photography festival. The event attracts thousands of novice and expert bird enthusiasts to the island who take part in the four days of workshops, field trips, and social events.

Celebrate the arrival of the beautiful 3-4 foot tall, red-capped Sandhill Cranes as the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council invites you to participate in the holiday birding event that has been dubbed by the New York Times as “one of the quirkiest events in Texas” – Holiday with the Cranes!

#BirdGalveston

Galveston Is a Certified 'Bird City Texas'

Galveston is now certified as a Bird City Texas community, according to Audubon Texas and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Galveston is one of three cities in the state to achieve Bird City designation in 2021! Learn more here.