Nature

Birding High Island Texas

There are 4 bird sanctuaries here offering amazing views of migrations. You can snap photos, enjoy nature,  and take guided walks and tours.

The month of April has the most activity. The 3rd week is the peak and it continues until mid May.

Bring your camera, insect repellent, walking shoes, and binoculars.

You can see thousands of birds and 300 species here like:

  • Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
  • Orioles
  • Painted Buntings
  • Warblers
  • Tanagers
  • Indigo Buntings
  • Wood Thrush
  • King Rail
  • Gray Catbird
  • Swallow-tailed Kite
  • Reddish Egret
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Merlin
  • Black-billed Cuckoo
  • Carolina Wren
  • American Redstart
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Bank Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Bay-breasted Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Blue-headed Vireo
  • Blue-winged Warbler
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Canada Warbler
  • Cape May Warbler
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Chimney Swift
  • Cliff Swallow
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Gray-cheeked Thrush
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Kentucky Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Northern Parula
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Ovenbird
  • Painted Bunting
  • Palm Warbler
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • White-eyed Vireo

Yellow bird species

  • American Goldfinch
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Blue-winged Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Northern Parula
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Pine Warbler
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-breasted Chat
  • Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

Habitat

Coastal habitats: High Island is near the Gulf Coast, and its coastal habitats include sandy beaches, dunes, marshes, and tidal flats. These areas are crucial for shorebirds, wading birds, and seabirds, which depend on them for foraging and nesting.

Wetlands: The region around High Island includes various wetland habitats such as freshwater marshes, brackish marshes, and swamps. These wetlands provide essential feeding and nesting grounds for many bird species, including waterfowl, herons, egrets, and rails.

Woodlands: The Houston Audubon Society manages several bird sanctuaries in High Island, which include oak mottes (wooded areas) and other wooded habitats. The woodlands provide cover, food, and nesting sites for a wide variety of migratory songbirds, including warblers, vireos, and flycatchers.

Grasslands and prairies: Although less prevalent than other habitats, some grassland and prairie habitats can be found in the area. These open habitats are essential for grassland bird species like meadowlarks, sparrows, and some raptors.

Mudflats and shallow water areas: Found in the coastal and wetland habitats around High Island, mudflats and shallow water areas provide foraging grounds for shorebirds and wading birds, which feed on the invertebrates and small fish found in these habitats.

 

High Island

High Island is a small, unincorporated community located in the Bolivar Peninsula area of Galveston County, Texas. It is situated along State Highway 124, near the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge.

High Island is approximately 90 miles from downtown Houston, Texas. The drive takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes. Take I-10 East and then TX-124 South.

One of the unique features of High Island is its elevation. Unlike most of the Texas Gulf Coast, which is relatively flat, High Island sits on a salt dome, giving it a higher elevation than the surrounding areas. This elevation ranges from 25 to 40 feet above sea level, making it less prone to flooding during hurricanes and tropical storms.

High Island is best known for its birdwatching opportunities, especially during the spring migration season. The Houston Audubon Society manages several bird sanctuaries in the area, including the Smith Oaks Sanctuary, the Boy Scout Woods Sanctuary, the Eubanks Woods Sanctuary, and the S.E. Gast Red Bay Sanctuary. These sanctuaries provide essential stopover habitat for migratory birds as they travel across the Gulf of Mexico.

I drove east from Houston on I-10 for about an hour. Then, I took exit 812 to Winnie and continued driving on Highway 124 for another 20 minutes. The road was surrounded by beautiful marshes and wetlands, and I couldn’t resist stopping at a few spots to take some pictures of the scenery. Once I arrived at High Island, I parked my car at the Boy Scout Woods Sanctuary, where I paid a small fee to access the trails.

As soon as I arrived, I could hear the birds all around me. I grabbed my binoculars and headed out onto the trails. The first thing I noticed was the sheer number of birds. There were so many different species, each with its own distinct call and behavior. I saw warblers, thrushes, finches, and so many more. It was overwhelming at first, but as I started to focus on individual birds, I began to appreciate the incredible diversity of life around me.

FAQ

Q: Where exactly should I go for birding on High Island? A: High Island has several bird sanctuaries managed by the Houston Audubon Society. Hotspots include Boy Scout Woods, Smith Oaks, Eubanks Woods, and the S.E. Gast Red Bay Sanctuary. It’s like a shopping mall for birders, with each sanctuary offering a different group of feathered friends!

Q: Do I need special equipment for birding at High Island? A: Binoculars are a must. You may also want a field guide to help identify the feathered celebrities. And don’t forget a hat, sunscreen, and bug spray – because sunburn and mosquito bites are not as exciting as spotting a rare warbler.

Q: Can I join a guided birdwatching tour? A: Absolutely, there are guided tours available, especially during peak migration periods. It’s like having a VIP backstage pass at a concert, where knowledgeable guides show you all the best spots and help identify the birds.

Q: Is there any etiquette I need to follow while birding at High Island? A: Yes, respect for the birds and their habitat is paramount. Stick to trails, don’t disturb the birds, and remember the old saying – take only pictures, leave only footprints. And maybe your awe at the incredible avian life you’ve witnessed.

Q: Can I volunteer at the High Island sanctuaries? A: Absolutely! The Houston Audubon Society often needs volunteers, particularly during the busy spring migration season. It’s a great way to support bird conservation, meet like-minded people, and who knows, you might learn a few bird calls while you’re at it.

Q: What facilities are available at the sanctuaries? A: There are toilets and picnic areas available. Birding can be hard work, after all, and there’s nothing like a good sandwich in the great outdoors to recharge your batteries.

Q: How do I get to High Island? A: High Island is approximately 80 miles east of Houston. You can take Interstate 10 and then head south on Highway 124. Just follow the flocks of birders. You can’t miss it!

Q: Is High Island suitable for beginner birders? A: Yes, High Island is a great place for birders of all experience levels. The birds are so plentiful that even novices will enjoy some thrilling sightings. Think of it as a beginner’s luck, birding edition.

Q: Do I have to pay to visit the sanctuaries at High Island? A: There is a small entry fee for the sanctuaries during the peak migration seasons. Think of it as a VIP pass to the best bird show in town.

Q: Can I bring my dog to the sanctuaries at High Island? A: No, pets are not allowed. Remember, we’re visiting the birds’ home. Imagine if someone brought their pet to your house uninvited!

Q: How should I dress for birding at High Island? A: Dress in layers as the weather can change. Wear comfortable walking shoes, and preferably long pants to protect against any insects or prickly vegetation. It’s not a fashion show, so comfort trumps style in this case.