Galveston Island: A Birder’s Paradise on the Gulf Coast

Birds of Galveston Island.

Galveston Island is located along the Texas Gulf Coast, about 50 miles from downtown Houston. The island is a popular tourist attraction for many reasons, including deep sea fishing, Moody Gardens, historic architecture, and the infinite seawall. However, many photographers and wildlife lovers visit this coastal city to see the birds of Galveston Island.

Galveston is nearly 30 miles long and encompasses a vast area. As a result, there are numerous places for birdwatching and wildlife photography. Due to its close proximity to the ocean, more than 500 bird species can be spotted on the island throughout the year. A handful of commonly spotted species include belted kingfishers, ospreys, roseate spoonbills, sandhill cranes, snowy egrets, and white-tailed kites.

Birds of Galveston Island

There are dozens of birdwatching destinations on Galveston Island. A few of the most popular birding locations include Galveston Island State Park and Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve. Believe it or not, several random roads provide birders with some of the best opportunities to see the birds of Galveston Island. American kestrels, belted kingfishers, and roseate spoonbills commonly congregate near 11 Mile Road, Settegast Road, Sportsman Road, and Stewart Road. Continue reading for more information about these great birdwatching destinations.

Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park is one of the best places to see kites and seahawks on the island. Birdwatchers commonly spot ospreys and white-tailed kites near the park’s entrance. Both raptor species hunt in the area. After catching fish, ospreys often resort to the telephone poles near the park’s entrance to devour their freshly caught meal. White-tailed kites, on the other hand, frequently hover over the fields near the entrance looking for small rodents.

Osprey standing on a telephone pole in Texas.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department manages Galveston Island State Park. Therefore, the park charges a daily entrance fee of $5 for each visitor who’s 13 years of age or older. If you’re a frequent visitor to state parks, you can purchase an annual Texas State Park Pass for $70. The pass grants you and your guests access to all 89 Texas State Parks for an entire year.

White-tailed kite resting on a telephone wire in Texas.

Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve

Another excellent birding destination on the island is Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve. The nature preserve is located on the west end of the island along Stewart Road. Since it’s located in a neighborhood, passersby often overlook the bird sanctuary.

Even though it’s located in an unusual spot, the preserve offers some of the best birdwatching on the island. The nature preserve has a boardwalk, which gives visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with wildlife. Frequent sightings include the bufflehead, green-winged teal, roseate spoonbill, and white ibis.

Male bufflehead swimming in a pond at Laffite's Cove Nature Society.

Random Roads

Finally, random roads are another great place to see the birds of Galveston Island. There are several roads on the west end of the island that provide opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife photography. Four of the best roads for birdwatching include 11 Mile Road, Settegast Road, Sportsman Road, and Stewart Road. Common sightings along these roads include American kestrels, roseate spoonbills, and sandhill cranes.

Sandhill crane featured in Galveston Island photos by Sara Turbyfill.

Edward and Helen Oppenheimer Bird Observatory is located near the corner of Settegast Road and Stewart Road. A short path leads visitors from the parking lot to a wildlife observation blind. The blind gives visitors the opportunity to observe birds and other wildlife from a safe distance without disturbing Mother Nature. Frequent sightings include American coots, ducks, and white ibises.

This bird observatory is located on land managed by Artist Boat. Artist Boat is a non-profit organization that’s striving to preserve and restore roughly 1,400 acres on Galveston Island.

American kestrel featured in birds of Galveston Island by Sara Turbyfill.

Although some of these locations are secluded, it’s important to note that all roads are lightly trafficked. If you decide to check out any of these birdwatching spots, be sure to pull your vehicle out of the way of traffic and refrain from walking in the middle of the road. Safety is always the number one priority!

Roseate spoonbill featured in birds of Galveston Island photos by Sara Turbyfill.

Visit Galveston Island

In conclusion, Galveston Island is a magical place filled with hundreds of bird species. Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or not, the island offers activities for all. Visitors from around the world come to the island to admire the historic architecture, board cruise ships to foreign countries, enjoy birdwatching, photograph wildlife, and stroll along the beach. Whatever your interests might be, Galveston has something for everyone to enjoy.

If you’re a true bird nerd, however, Galveston is commonly referred to as a birder’s paradise. Nearly 500 species of birds live on the island throughout the year. There’s even an entire festival dedicated to birdwatchers. FeatherFest is an annual event that occurs on the island every April. The festival is filled with birdwatching activities, educational programs, and nature photography field trips. For more information about birdwatching in Galveston, check out the resources below.


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