The upcoming July 4th holiday provides a great opportunity to get out and celebrate Galveston’s red, white and blue – Birding for Fun style! This is a great time of year to get a closer look at three of our year-round residents.
Okay, this bird isn’t actually red, it’s more reddish – in fact, it’s called a Reddish Egret, and it’s the bird species chosen to represent Galveston due to its significance in this area. Unlike other species of egrets, it is only found in saltwater or brackish water, a much narrower habitat niche. For this reason, its conservation status is threatened due to habitat loss, making Galveston one of the few places it can be found. Their active foraging behavior makes them great fun to watch, as they stagger around chasing fish with their large wings spread wide.
Another Galveston specialty is the White-tailed Kite, a sleek-looking raptor that can often be seen on the West End, especially now during breeding season. This species prefers to eat rodents, hovering in mid-air as it scans for them in fields and scrubby areas. As the name implies, these birds are amazing aerialists, and if you’re lucky you may see a pair’s high-flying courtship display. A closer view through binoculars reveals beautiful red eyes set off by dark patches, giving them an intensely predatory look.
No trip to Galveston would be complete without seeing the stately Great Blue Heron, impressive in size alone at 4½ feet tall. Adapting to a wide variety of habitats from freshwater or saltwater wetlands to dry fields, this species is an opportunistic feeder. Unlike Reddish Egrets, Great Blue Herons move very slowly and stealthily as they hunt, before suddenly lunging forward with their dagger-like bills to capture everything from fish to crustaceans to rodents. This behavior provides many great photo opportunities as they strike a new pose with each slow step forward.
No matter what time of year it is, there’s always a lot to see here in Galveston!
Kristine Rivers founded Birding for Fun in 2015, and is a popular tour guide and speaker whose enthusiasm for nature is contagious. A lifelong birder, she has been an area leader for the Brazoria Columbia Bottomlands Christmas Bird Count since 2011, and has been President of the Texas Master Naturalist Cradle of Texas chapter since January 2017.
Photo Credits: Kristine Rivers