Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary By Sara Turbyfill.

Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary: This Globally Important Bird Area Is Excellent for Birdwatching

Birdwatching at Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary

Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary is a refuge that was set aside as a bird conservation area. The sanctuary is located near State Highway 87 and Rettilon Rd on Bolivar Peninsula in Texas. This land is owned and managed by the Houston Audubon and is recognized as a Globally Important Bird Area. An Important Bird Area or IBA is is an area of land that uses an international set of criteria to help with bird conservation.

What Types of Birds Are Found at the Sanctuary?

This shorebird sanctuary provides refuge to dozens of bird species and is one of the best places for birdwatching and wildlife photography on the Gulf Coast. Therefore, people from around the world visit the sanctuary to observe some of the most fascinating birds found in Texas. Depending on the time of year, common visitors to the area include the American avocet, barn swallow, eastern kingbird, loggerhead shrike, reddish egret, and willet.

American Avocet

One of the most interesting birds found at the sanctuary is the American avocet. American avocets display gray plumage around the head in winter or rusty plumage during breeding season. They have grayish legs and long upturned bills, which allow them to easily sift through the water, looking for prey. These exotic birds seem like they don’t belong on the Gulf Coast, but flocks of them wade in the tidal flats near the shore.

American Avocet Photographed By Sara Turbyfill Near Galveston Bay.

Barn Swallow

Another species of bird found at the sanctuary is the barn swallow. The barn swallow is the most widespread swallow in the world and is found throughout the United States. They are easily identifiable by their dark blue back and cinnamon colored throat. These birds often perch on the barbed wire along Rettilon Road or near the sand dunes on the beach.

Barn Swallow Photographed By Sara Turbyfill On Bolivar Peninsula.

Eastern Kingbird

In addition to barn swallows, eastern kingbirds are also common residents at the refuge. Eastern kingbirds belong to the tyrant flycatchers family and prey on small insects, which make up a majority of their diet. They have a black head, dark gray back, and white underbelly. These birds perch on small shrubs and trees along Rettilon Road.

Eastern Kingbird Photographed By Sara Turbyfill Near Galveston Bay In Texas.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead shrikes are another species of bird that ordinarily visit the sanctuary. Their diet consists of insects, lizards, crawfish, rodents, and even small birds. The loggerhead shrike has a bluish gray head and back, a white underbelly, and a black mask around the eyes. These birds often perch on fence posts or rest on tree branches along Rettilon Road.

Loggerhead Shrike Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary.

Reddish Egret

Another frequent flyer at the sanctuary is the reddish egret. The reddish egret feeds primarily on fish and inhabits most of the Gulf Coast. Dark-morph juveniles and adults display gray and reddish plumage, while white-morphs show white plumage only. Reddish egrets commonly wade near the shore at the sanctuary.

Reddish Egret White Morph Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At The Houston Audubon Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary.


Finally, willets are common at the sanctuary during all seasons. Willets prey on small insects, crabs, marine worms, and fish. They display gray and white plumage and have a long, narrow bill. These wading birds rest on fence posts along Rettilon Road or scavenge on the beach.

Willet Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary.

Visit Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary

In addition to the birds listed above, there are dozens more that visit the refuge throughout the year. For example, other regular visitors include the brown pelican, least tern, roseate spoonbill, and snowy egret.

Visiting Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary is free, however, you must purchase a parking permit to park on the beach near the sanctuary. Parking stickers cost ten dollars and are valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which they were purchased. For more information, check out the resources provided below.

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