Houston birders are lucky to have Galveston Island close at hand. This barrier island is a great place to look for shorebirds and a great variety of spring and fall migrants. Habitats of Galveston include tidal mudflats, estuaries, salt marshes, oak mottes, grasslands, and beaches. October through April are delightful times for birding Galveston. Summers can be challenging given the heat, humidity, and biting insects (especially in the salt marshes of places like Galveston Island State Park). Below find a small collection of bird images from across the island.
Young Male(?) Summer Tanager at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston Island, Texas. The female of eastern subspecies of Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra rubra) has variably patchy red and yellow feathers on the head and body, hence the question mark. Lafitte’s Cove Nature Sanctuary is an oak motte habitat (like Sabine Woods), and one of the the best spots on the Texas Gulf Coast to see Neotropical migrant songbirds–every bit the equal of High Island . . . . High-speed synchronized fill-flash.
Philadelphia Vireo at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston Island, Texas. High-speed synchronized flash.
Bathing Blue-winged Warbler at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston Island, Texas. High-speed synchronized flash.
Brown Thrasher at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston Island, Texas. High-speed synchronized flash.
Great-crested Flycatcher at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston Island, Texas. Flycatcher’s can be be extremely difficult to identify. I think this a Great-crested Flycatcher, but I welcome comments from anyone who knows better. High-speed synchronized fill-flash.
White-eyed Vireo at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston Island, Texas. High-speed synchronized flash.
Of course, Galveston is a mecca for waterbirds and shorebirds, both resident and migrant . . . .
Common Loon at Offatt’s Bayou, Galveston Island, Texas. As we stood on a pier, this Common Loon popped up right in front of us–just as if we had conjured it. Note the interesting catchlights in this bird’s eye: the sun and the reflection of the sun on the surface of the water.
Brown Pelican in Postbreeding Colors at East Beach, Galveston Island, Texas. Canon EOS 7D/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). High-speed synchronized fill-flash.
American Oystercatcher at San Luis Pass.
Juvenile Brown Pelican in Flight Over Galveston Bay. Photo taken with Canon EOS 7D/500mm f/4 IS USM (+1.4 TC) on tripod w/stabilizer Mode 2.
Sanderling in Winter Plumage on Dead Fish at East Beach. Sanderlings are amusing to watch as they attempt to sneak a bite or two of carrion, and then scurry away. Photo taken under natural early morning light.
Female Red-winged Blackbird at East Beach.
Black-bellied Plover in Winter Colors at East Beach. Photo taken in natural early morning light.
Great Blue Heron Hunting at East Beach. Great Blues can put on spectacular hunting displays of head bobbing and weaving. For some reason I’m always surprised to see Great Blues hunting in marine environments. It’s a personal problem.
Snowy Egret with Mullet: Photo taken in the shallows of East Beach.
Western(?) Meadowlark at Galveston Island State Park. Hand-held with 500mm f/4L IS USM (+1.4x TC).
Sandwich Tern at East Beach.
On the beach: a Ruddy Turnstone at East Beach.
Marbled Godwit: probing the tidal mudflats of East Beach for invertebrates. Marbled Godwits are winter visitors to the Texas Gulf Coast, and summer in the Upper Midwest and Canada.
Vagrant: This Rock Wren appeared at East Beach after a bout of stormy weather. Being a western species, this bird is not normally seen in this area. Perhaps it was blown off course?
© 2012-2013 Christopher R. Cunningham. All rights reserved. No images or text may be duplicated or distributed without permission.
Wondering if I might be able to use the Rock Wren image for my online ‘Birds of Vancouver Island’ stored at the above website.
Much appreciated Pat
These are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for your kind words! Chris
Thank you for sharing these pictures of all these birds and how beautiful they are and the information about them
You’re welcome, Teresa! Cheers, Chris
What awesome photos. Wow! Thank you.
Thank you very much! Chris
Thank you for the beautiful pictures! I am staying at one of the RV Parks on the island and have black birds that make very funny sounds. I was wondering if you might know the name of these strange birds.
Thanks for the comment! Likely these are grackles, either Great-tailed or Boat-tailed. Cheers, Chris
I live in the Houston area but I go to Galveston very often! I have been curious about the birds that reside there as I am getting more into learning about birds. Thank you for this list!
Thanks for the comment, Donna! Galveston is one of the best places in the country to go birding throughout the year. Spring is especially excellent. Cheers, Chris
Hi -we are from Uk & staying in Galveston, in a flat along the Seawall overlooking the gulf. We are fascinated by the range of birds we are seeing. We look out and see huge black birds with white backs that glide & skim the water, occasionally touching with their wings. We also see another black bird that dives into the water & usually takes off straight away or floats on the sea for a bit before taking off! Just wondering if you could possibly name these two birds? It’s such a privilege to see them in action! Thank you!
Hello, Kris: Thanks for the comment! The first bird sounds like a Black Skimmer (except for the white back–the underside is white), and the second sounds like a cormorant. There are two species about, Double-crested and Neotropic). These are hard to tell apart unless you are a seasoned birder. Cheers, Chris and Elisa
Beautiful photos ! We’re in Gilchrist and trying to remember from my childhood these beauties! And new ones! Like the Rock Wren! Thank you!
I love taking pictures of birds, where should I go in March and April months?
In early April, the songbird migration will be in full swing. Any of the migrant traps along the Gulf Coast will be prime birding spots for songbirds. Lafitte’s Cove on Galveston is a good spot, although often crowded in nice weather. Any of the mudflats on Galveston Island during this time will be good possibilities for migrating shorebirds. Probably our favorite migrant trap for songbirds is Dauphin Island, Alabama. You could also peruse the posts and articles on this website for other ideas. Cheers, Chris