Birding in Galveston Island State Park
Little remains of the once extensive barrier island habitats found along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of North America. Beach resorts, coastal homes, and other development now dominate these lands. The small amount of relatively pristine habitat found in Galveston Island State Park is an important resource for many bird species. The property is in the path of the migration flyway used by most of the bird species that seasonally travel between North and South America. In the spring many birds make their first landfall on the island after flying over the Gulf. In the fall birds pause at Galveston Island before beginning their long overwater journey. There are also many birds that either make their home within the park or regularly use the Gulf, prairie, and salt marsh habitats to forage.
Galveston Island Bird Checklists
There are a few bird checklists for Galveston Island or for Galveston Island State Park. They are all derived from a 1992 list prepared by Ted Eubanks.
The free checklist you can obtain at the park is a reproduction of the Eubanks online checklist. It is online at the USGS's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center website. To get the pamphlet at the park you have to ask for it at the office desk; they do not have copies on display. This checklist includes information about bird habitats within the park, species specific seasonal abundances, and the preferred habitats for all the birds listed. You can download a printable PDF version of the webpage or view it online.
The image on the left is the cover of the Galveston Island State Park bird checklist pamphlet. The illustration is a pencil drawing of a Clapper Rail by TPWD staff illustrator Clemente F. Guzmann III.
The Texas birding net also has an online checklist of birds of Galveston Island. David Sarkozi manages this page and this great online Texas birding resource. Galveston.com has a PDF version of a Galveston Island checklist that appears to be a derivation of the Texas Birding net checklist (there is no source attribution or citation).
Where to find the birds...
There are a range of habitats and many good places to birdwatch in the park.
Prairie and salt marsh
Most of the park's trails are located in these two habitats. There are trails that wind through the prairie and some of these include boardwalks that cross the marsh. One of the trails includes an elevated platform that provides a great view of the bay. Except for those times of the year when there are many birders (spring and fall migration), there are generally not many people out and about along these trails. You can also stop at numerous places along the bayside roads and get a nice view of various bay and saltmarsh areas.
The Gulf Beach
There are a lot of shorebirds found at the beach. When there are a lot of people in the park the beach can be crowded. During certain times of the day or during different times of the year, the beach is relatively uncrowded and you can get some long looks at numerous birds that you do not typically see further inland.
There are small ponds and freshwater wetlands scattered throughout the park. There is often standing water found in low lying areas along the sides of the road that lead to the gulf side campgrounds. Similar wet areas and ponds of various sizes are found in the prairie north of the highway. One of the ponds has a small bird blind.
You can get some great views of the bay from many of the prairie trails, marsh trails, and from various places along the bayside roads.