Birding

Due to the wide variety habitats, Galveston Island State Park is a popular venue for birders, especially during spring and fall migrations.

  • Beach – A great location to view shorebirds
  • Prairie and salt marsh – Most of the Park’s bay-side roads and trails meander through these habitats
  • Freshwater – The Park includes scattered freshwater ponds, as well as seasonal standing water
  • Bay – West Galveston Bay offers a rich birding experience

A useful checklist – “Birds of Galveston Island State Park” – be viewed online. This checklist was prepared by local birder Ted Eubanks.

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Sunday morning bird walks

Ex-FoGISP board member Dr Richard Peake conducts bird walks in the Park every Sunday. Meet at the Nature Center at 8:00 am and, if you have them, bring your binoculars. Dick has been an active field ornithologist for over fifty years; though not primarily a “lister,” he has an ABA list of well over 700 and a world list of 4,500 species.

An excellent morning’s birding in the Park

To wet your appetite, here are the birds seen in the Park by a group of birders on just one October morning.

On the beach, the group found Long-billed Curlews amid a large flock of Marbled Godwits, as well as Royal and Foster’s Terns. A Neotropic Cormorant landed among numerous Laughing Gulls and a Ring-billed Gull or two. Ruddy Turnstones and Piping Plovers were working one potion of the beach, while two Least Sandpipers, a Western Sandpiper and a knot of rare Red Knots worked another. A lone Caspian Tern flew over Sanderlings, Willets, Black-billed Plovers and a solitary Snowy Plover.

Away from the beach, a Great Egret patrolled the edge of a pool, while a small flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds and a Red-winged Blackbird occupied a picnic table. Turkey and Black Vultures circled overhead, joined by juvenile White Ibises that had been perched on a telephone line. Further down the line were some starlings and an Eastern Meadowlark.

The first stop on the bay-side of the Park produced a Northern Mockingbird and a very cooperative Cooper’s Hawk, as well as a pair of Crested Caracaras. A little farther down the road, the birders saw a rare dark-phase Broad-winged Hawk.

The birders saw a Snowy Egret, a Great Blue Heron and an immature Neotropic Cormorant at the next stop. Vultures kittling above them were joined by migrating Broad-winged Hawks and a few Swainson’s Hawks that were also riding the thermals. This was a rare treat since migrating hawks do not like to cross extensive bodies of water; thus, large kettles of raptors are rarely seen on Galveston Island. Later, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a Merlin, a Red-tailed Hawk and a Northern Harrier rounded out the morning’s raptor count.

Still, the morning wasn’t over. The birders were next treated to three species of migrating swallows, pairs of Pied-billed Grebes and White Pelicans, four Killdeer and a Loggerhead Shrike. In a little over two hours, they saw 52 species — a truly excellent morning’s birding in the Park.

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