When To Bird
Something New Each Season
The beaches, wetlands, grasslands, woods, ponds, and bays are home to many common year-round bird species, as well as numerous others that visit briefly or for part of the year.
Birds fly north each spring from Central and South America and Galveston is in the center of their flight path. Birders flock to the Texas coast for this spectacle and that is why Galveston’s FeatherFest held each spring has become the biggest birding festival in Texas!
Acting more like a creeper or nuthatch than other warblers, the Black-and-white Warbler climbs or creeps on tree trunks and limbs foraging for insects, rotating its body from side to side during hops. This photo was taken by Mary Halligan during FeatherFest in 2018.
The Baltimore Oriole, a small icterid blackbird, is a migratory breeding bird, seen in Galveston during the spring. This photo was taken by Mary Halligan at the East End Lagoon Nature Preserve during FeatherFest on a Complete Birding Sampler field trip.
After the hoopla of spring, summer can seem a bit slow in the bird department, but that is not the case. Just head to the wetlands and ponds.
The official bird of Galveston, the Reddish Egret is a long-legged, long-necked wader. This photo was taken by Gary Seloff on the East End of Galveston and won 2nd Place in the 2017 FeatherFest Photo Contest.
Many of the same migrants that flew north in the spring turn around and head south through Galveston in the fall. That migration is not quite the spectacle that spring is, but we have something else really special. The Sandhill Cranes arrive in October!
These cranes spend the winter here roosting in the wetlands then flying to our prairies and pastures to forage in small flocks for grains and invertebrates. They have a trumpeting call and are known for dancing by stretching their wings, pumping their heads, bowing, and leaping. The photo above was taken by Kerrie Highley.
In addition to the Sandhill Cranes, we have lots of other species that spend the winter on the island, such as American Kestrels, Belted Kingfishers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Loons, and Vermilion Flycatchers. We also host many raptors, including various hawks, falcons and Osprey.
This visitor has a wild rattling call when flying over ponds or the bay. It watches for fish while perched on a wire or branch then feeds by diving headfirst into the water. It winters on Galveston Island then heads north for breeding season. This photo was taken by Kristine Rivers on the Bolivar Flats.
Mergansers specialize in eating fish by diving and swimming underwater. Look for them around wooded ponds like those at Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve in the winter. This photo was taken by Gary Seloff and won 1st Place in the 2019 Week 3 FeatherFest Photo Contest.