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High Island

Annotated Spring Checklist

LOONS
Common Loon (Gavia
immer)

GREBES
Least Grebe (Tachybaptus
dominicus)

This species is only an occasional visitor to the area, most frequently recorded during April-May, but should not be expected in a ‘normal’ birding visit to the area.
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
Present year-round as a resident breeder (bolstered by migrants in some seasons too), easily seen during a circuit of Shoveler Pond in Anahuac NWR.
Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
Although, there are historical isolated breeding records from the Upper Texas Coast in the 1990s, there are no recent ones. It is generally thought of as an occasional wintering migrant through the area (mainly during Feb-March), and therefore should not be expected during a short spring visit during peak migration in April.

PELICANS
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Usually a good flock of these birds can be located at the southern end of HAS Bolivar Flats during much of the spring (i.e. where the majority of the waterbirds gather in a large flock).
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Very common resident, easily seen anywhere along the coastline.

GANNETS AND BOOBIES
Northern Gannet (Morus
bassanus)

Generally, a rare bird to find in spring on this part of the Upper Texas Coast. The northern part of the Gulf, closer to High Island is usually a more regular location than further south along the peninsula, at say Bolivar Flats. Records peak during March, and so this is unlikely to be seen on a traditional April spring visit to the area.

CORMORANTS
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax
auritus)
Mainly a wintering species in Texas, and in this area of the state too. However, usually still present in April into early May, when readily found along the Bolivar Peninsula. However, always greatly outnumbered by Neotropic Cormorants in this region.
Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) *see above

ANHINGAS
Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)

This is a local breeder, and is generally present year-round in High Island. In the past, nests could be observed from the HAS Smith Oaks rookery observation platforms, and while they probably still breed and roost there, sightings of nesting birds are not guaranteed. The best way to find this species in the immediate area, is use these platforms during the late afternoon/evening, when large, impressive numbers of waterbirds, including Anhingas fly in from other feeding sites to roost for the night. You can expect to see Anhings amongst this crown during a spring vigil there.

FRIGATEBIRDS
Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata
magnificens) *see above

HERONS, EGRETS, AND BITTERNS
Great Blue Heron (Ardea
herodias)
Present year-round in good numbers, and therefore should be seen during a ‘standard’ spring visit to High Island.
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Also present year-round in High Island, and easy to see in their full breeding refinery at the Smith Oaks rookery during April, when the chick are usually present mid-late in the month.
Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) *see above
Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)

A common resident that breeds locally. While nests may be seen at the HAS Smith Oaks rookery, they are not always visible from the viewing platforms. Therefore, they are just as easily seen anywhere along the Bolivar Peninsula (e.g. Rollover Pass, some of the inland roads, like Bob Road, and HAS Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary). Easily found on a short spring visit.
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

A common bird in the region, perhaps most easily seen during the “evening fly in” at the HAS Smith Oaks rookery on High Island, where large numbers come in to roost at Smith Pond.
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
A common bird on the Upper Texas Coast, both in coastal waters and freshwaters. The best observations can be made at the rookery on Claybottom Pond in HAS Smith Oaks in High Island, where there are observation platforms to view and photograph these birds. At this season, they are their brightest and most vivid, with striking facial skin. Birds are already nesting in April, and chicks are around by the month end. This species is a sure thing at the rookery, and well worth a visit, the outstanding viewing of these and other waterbirds there, make this a firm favorite among keen birders, casual birders, all types of bird photographers and family visitors too, just getting the feel for birding.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
A common breeding bird in the area, and easily seen during even a short visit. Again, the HAS Smith Oaks rookery is a good place to see large numbers flying in of an evening during spring.
Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

A breeding visitor to the area, when common and widespread, from March onwards (some do winter in the area too). Easily found in spring, particularly at HAS Smith Oaks on High Island and nearby Anahuac NWR.
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

This species is present year-round and breeds in the area too. Like many of the herons it is best looked for at HAS Smith Oaks, especially in the evenings, when they become more active.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea)

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is a fairly common species in the area, and is a breeder on the Upper Texas Coast. The greatest numbers are during springtime (April), and a good place to find them is the edges of Smith Pond, in HAS Smith Oaks, although they are cryptic and difficult to find during the daytime, so are best looked for in the evenings when they become more active, and when birds are most often seen on the wing, or standing in the open.
Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis)

A scarce breeder in the area, best looked for early in the morning at Anahuac NWR, where they are usually located within a few visits to Shoveler Pond.
American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
A local breeder in small numbers; though often very inconspicuous. Unquestionably the nearest place ton High Island where they are seen with regularity is the refuge at Anahuac, although even there, multiple visits are likely to be needed. Early morning and late afternoon/evenings are always advised if this species is a priority, as they are more likely to emerge into the open at these times.

STORKS
Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) *see above


IBIS AND SPOONBILLS
White Ibis (Eudocimus
albus)

A common and widespread breeding resident in the area, easily found during even a short spring visit. A particularly nice way of seeing them is by making a late afternoon visit to the HAS Smith Oaks viewing platforms on High Island, when large numbers of them fly in to roost each night, making for both a great spectacle, and a good way of seeing them in significant numbers.
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)

A small number of Glossy Ibises are present year-round on the Upper Texas Coast, although evaluating their exact status is difficult as this species is easily confused with the next, which is abundant in the region. Take great care in identifying dark ibises in the area, and this species should not be expected during an average, short spring visit to the area. The most likely place to find them is in and around Anahuac NWR, where large numbers of dark ibis gather.
White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)

A common bird in the area, most readily seen at nearby Anahuac NWR. Please note: This species is much, much more abundant in the area than Glossy Ibis, although both can occur, and sometimes hybrids of the two also.
Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) *see above

DUCKS, GEESE, AND SWANS
Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis
Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens)
A regular winter visitor to the area, in good numbers, particularly in the areas surrounding Anahuac NWR. However, usually absent by late March. Therefore, highly unlikely to be seen during a spring visit, unless a rare, very late lingerer occurs, as they do from time to time.
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
Although resident not far away, they are rarely seen on the coast itself, and so would not be expected during a short spring visit, unless a trip into the nearby Pinewywoods/Big Thicket was also included.
American Wigeon (Anas americana)

A wintering species on the Upper Texas Coast, regularly found at Anahuac NWR, with March seeing the departure of the majority of them. Usually the last of them have gone by mid-late April. So, it is possible to see during a spring visit, depending on whether any have lingered into April in that particular year.
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Mottled Duck (Anas
fulvigula) *see above
American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)

Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)
Cinnamon Teal (Anas
cyanoptera)

A scarce bird that does not breed in the local area, mainly being found in small numbers during the winter months, and mostly at Anahuac NWR. Records tend to tail off from March, but sometimes singles/small numbers linger into April. Not to be expected on an average spring trip.
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

An abundant winter visitor, best looked for in the ponds at Anahuac NWR; although the largest numbers (into triple figures) occur during the winter months, there are usually some still present for much of April, even into early May in lesser numbers still.
Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)

A scarce winter visitor, usually only seen in very small numbers (less than ten) in Anahuac. Records tend to decrease during March, and so this species is usually gone by April, but occasionally singles stick around later.
Redhead (Aythya americana)

A wintering species in the area (mainly around Anahuac NWR), which is usually absent by the peak of spring (birds usually have gone by late March). Occasionally, single lingerers may be seen in April, but this would be rare and unexpected.
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra)
Surf Scoter (Melanitta
perspicillata)
White-winged Scoter (Melanitta
fusca)
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala
clangula)
Bufflehead (Bucephala
albeola)
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)

A regular winterer in the area, which often lingers well into spring, and is usually easily seen during a short spring visit in late April. A very good place to look is Rollover Pass on the Bolivar Peninsula.
Masked Duck (Nomonyx dominica)
A very rare and only occasional visitor to the area (e.g. has bred at Anahuac in the non-recent past). If one turns up, it should be chased fast, as a vagrant to the area. Not to be expected in most years when visiting this area (i.e. there has not been a gettable one within this region for more than ten years to my knowledge).
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
A wintering species in the area, mainly recorded at nearby Anahuac NWR. Usually birds have all gone by the end of March, though occasionally, birds will linger later than usual, into April.

NEW WORLD VULTURES
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

A common year round species, easily during any visit.
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
A common year round species, easily during any visit.

OSPREY
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Present almost year round as a wintering species, and spring and fall migrant, although not thought to breed in the specific area. However, a conspicuous raptor, often seen along the coastal sites on the Bolivar Peninsula during spring.

HAWKS, EAGLES, AND KITES
Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus)
*see above
White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) *see above
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)
A regular, though never numerous, spring migrant through the area. Their migration, like many other migrant species, peaks in April. However, you still need to be lucky to see one on any given day/trip, as they usually only come through in small numbers, and generally do not linger but are merely flyovers.
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Generally, not thought to breed in the immediate area, although has done not too far away (e.g. Beaumont, and Jasper area). Most often seen in this area during the winter months, and mainly in and around Anahuac NWR, with some birds occasionally being seen in this area into April too. If this is a much wanted species, then a trip a short distance inland to say Sam Rayburn Reservoir north of Jasper (2 hours north of High Island) should bring sightings of birds that breed in this area.
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
A resident local breeder in small numbers, usually easily found quartering the saltmarshes at HAS Bolivar Flats within a few visits to there at the most. Greater numbers occur within the winter months, but it is still likely to be seen during a short spring trip, if you take a trip or two to the flats. This has recently (2017) been formerly recognized as a separate species from the European Hen Harrier.
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo
platypterus)

A regular spring migrant, passing over from March to early May, with the biggest numbers typically coming through in mid-late April.
Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
A regular spring/summer visitor to the area, which can be regularly seen migrating through the area in April. Open areas are best for this species, with the surrounding fields close to Anahuac NWR, a good place to try for it. A good chance to find this species during a mid-late April visit, but not guaranteed.
White-tailed Hawk (Buteo albicaudatus) *see above
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
A regularly seen bird in open country areas nearby year-round (e.g. Anahuac area). There are larger numbers during winter, when their ranks are swelled by northern birds wintering in the south, but they are still present through the spring.

FALCONS AND CARACARAS
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

Generally considered a winter migrant, with chances falling of seeing this species by the end of March. Sometimes small number of birds will continue to be seen into April, but this should not be expected during a spring trip.
Merlin (Falco columbarius)
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Most likely to be seen hunting shorebirds at sites along the Bolivar Peninsula, especially HAS Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary. However, even during a spring visit to the area sightings are not guaranteed, as they are only seen intermittently, and unpredictably, and their numbers during this season are considerably lower than in the fall and winter months.

NEW WORLD QUAIL
Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus)

Thought to be extirpated on High Island itself, although still present as a breeding bird, in small numbers in the Anahuac area, where your greatest chance of finding this species is. Typically, they are spotted most during the breeding season, when they are calling and more conspicuous. This starts from March onwards. A targeted search would usually be needed to find this species, which is scarce and inconspicuous, even when present. Early mornings, whey they are most likely to be calling, is the best option.

CRANES
Sandhill Crane (Grus
canadensis)

A scarce species, usually recorded in winter only, and very unlikely to be seen during April-May, as they usually have moved out by late Feb-early March.

RAILS, GALLINULES, AND COOTS
Yellow Rail (Coturnicops
noveboracensis) *see above
Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis) *see above
Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris)

Clapper Rail is a common breeder in the area, particularly in coastal and brackish marshes. Unlike many other rails, this is one species that seems to wander out into the open more than most, making them readily seen even during a short spring visit to the area. Good places to look for them are: Rollover Pass, and along the roads that run inland on the Bolivar Peninsula (e.g. Yacht Basin Road, North Tuna Drive, and Bob Road). Several visits to these areas should ensure a sighting or two. While early mornings are sure to make views more likely, it is not uncommon to see them wandering into the open in the middle of even the hottest days. Knowledge of their distinctive, clattering calls may also help to locate them.
King Rail (Rallus elegans)

A freshwater rail, best looked for early in the morning at Anahuac NWR just north of High Island (c.17 miles away), where it is fairly common, if sometimes difficult to see, among the extensive reedbeds in the refuge. Driving slowly around Shoveler Pond and surrounding areas, and carefully scanning the muddy edges of the reeds is a good method to find them. Several dedicated visits either early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, may be needed to find one. While not rare, and some visits can lead to multiple sightings, at other times they can seem non-existent, so plan for several visits to find one, if this species is a major priority.
Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)

A breeder in the local area in small numbers, although generally difficult to see, and not to be expected on a short spring visit to the area. Best place to try for it is Anahuac NWR, especially on the refuge’s organized rail walks in the Yellow Rail Prairie. Please contact the refuge for details of the timings of these.
Sora (Porzana carolina)

A wintering species and spring/fall migrant. Spring passage peaks during April, and so a visit to Anahuac NWR gives a good chance of seeing this species at this time, when their calls can be heard regularly from the reedbeds surrounding the Shoveler Pond loop. They thought not to breed in the local area.
Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica) *see above
Common Gallinule (Gallinula chloropus)

A common breeding resident in the area, best looked for at Anahuac NWR, where they are conspicuous and easy to find.

*Please note: Now considered a different species from the Old World ones, and so now renamed as Common Gallinule, but previously known as Common Moorhen, which is now applied to only the Old World species in Europe, Africa and Asia.
American Coot (Fulica americana)
A regular breeder in Texas, and present year round in this part, with sightings most likely during spring at sites like Anahuac NWR.

OYSTERCATCHERS
American Oystercatcher (Haematopus
palliatus) *see above

AVOCETS AND STILTS
Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)

A fairly common and conspicuous species, present year round, but with greater numbers in spring and summer, when they breed in the local area. They are best looked for at brackish water sites along the Bolivar Peninsula (e.g. the oil fields), or in freshwater marshes like nearby Anahuac NWR. Its conspicuousness makes it easy to find during short springtime visits to the area.
American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)
One of the most spectacular sights in the region is the mass of American Avocets that use the Bolivar Peninsula as an important coastal wintering site, and migration staging post. It is said that up to 10,000 birds can be present at any one time during winter and spring. Although present year-round, they reach their largest numbers in winter and spring, and so a short spring visit is assured to find some, somewhere along the Bolivar Peninsula in particular. Some good spots to try to see them are Rollover Pass, HAS Bolivar Flats, and near the North Jetty, which is often where the biggest numbers gather. They are present well into May, and so any spring visit should find at least some, even if not all ten thousand of them, as the birds can often be scattered among various sites.

PLOVERS AND LAPWINGS
American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis
dominica)

This is a regular migrant that passes through the area mostly in early spring. It most often frequents the muddy ricefields in the Anahuac area, but not necessarily within the reserve itself. (e.g. along TX1985 that leads to the entrance road into the refuge). As the habitat within these fields varies greatly not only from year-to-year, but from week-to-week, day-to-day, and even hour-to-hour, due to changing weather conditions and the local farming practices, it is important to find out which fields are currently the best locations during your visit to the area. Stopping in and speaking to the Tropical Birding Tours/Houston Audubon Society guides in the Houston Audubon Field Station on 5th Street (opposite Boy Scout Woods) is a good source of the latest information on this. They migrate through the area from March into early May, although peak during April. There are peaks and troughs in migration with a species like this, and so in some visits they are easily found, as it hits the exact time when many are moving through, but then during other visits they may undergo a dip in migration for a few days, making them much harder to find. Armed with the details of the best recent locations, in terms of habitat, and spending several hours making a dedicated search should ensure a sighting. The free guided walks run by Houston Audubon and Tropical Birding Tours often target this species, when there are good numbers of inland shorebirds around, and so are a good method of getting to find them. Please be aware that the same fields often hold Black-bellied Plovers too, and so care must be taken with ID. This is particularly challenging in this season, when many of the birds will be in their most confusing, non-breeding plumage.
Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)

In spite of this species not breeding in Texas, they are usually present year-round, and are easy to find in springtime at both Rollover Pass and Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary. They can also be around in good numbers in rice fields near Anahuac NWR too.
Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)

A regular wintering species, which is usually seen year-round, although not breeding in the area. Springtime visits are virtually assured of sightings at either Rollover Pass, Boilivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, and even in small numbers in damp rice fields near Anahuac NWR.
Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia) *see above
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

A very common breeding resident in the area; impossible to miss!
Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) *see above

SANDPIPERS
American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)

A scarce winter visitor to the area, highly unlikely to be seen during the spring migration period.
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata)
A scarce and inconspicuous wintering species that often lingers into April. While not expected during a spring visit they are usually still present in April, and are best looked for at Anahuac and surrounds, but are not as visible as many other shorebirds.
Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)
A common winter and spring migrant, present in good numbers throughout the spring. Tends to prefer feeding in saltwater or brackish areas, and is therefore best looked for along the coast of the Bolivar Peninsula (e.g. HAS Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, Rollover Pass). Easily seen in good numbers on any short visit to the area. As this is one of the most difficult challenges of identification in North Amerijca, it is recommended to either use a local guide, or learn the distinctive call notes that are best used to separate this species from Long-billed Dowitcher.
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)
Good numbers of this shorebird are present through the year in the region, with a peak in numbers occurring during spring migrarion in April. The best place to find them is usually in either brackish or freshwater situations, such as those provided by the oil fields in High Island, or nearby Anahuac NWR just to the north. As on migration there are good numbers of both this species and the extremely similar Short-billed Dowitcher, the best way to identify them from each other is by voice.
Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica) *see above
Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)
A wintering species that does not breed in the area, although has been recorded in all months of the year. This coastal species is still present in small numbers in spring (April-early May), and so a visit to Rollover Pass, HAS Bolivar Flats, or other coastal spots on the Bolivar Peninsula should ensure sightings of a handful of birds.
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

Although the species does not breed in the area, it is readily found during spring visits, particularly in coastal areas on the Bolivar Peninsula, and also large concentrations are often found in flooded rice fields around nearby Anahuac NWR.
Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)
This is principally a wintering species in this area of the Upper Texas Coast, with the saltmarshes behind the HAS Bolivar Fklats Shorebird Sanctuary being a particularly good place to find them. Although technically present through the spring into May, numbers visibly tail off by mid-April. A scarce enough species by the peak time of spring migration, that you might need to make a dedicated search for it in the area around Bolivar Flats to ensure a sighting. Scarce enough to miss on a short visit in late spring, especially if no dedicated searches are undertaken.
Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)
A spring and fall migrant through the area, peaking in April during the spring (especially mid-April). A grass shorebird, which prefers fields inland from the coast, such as those found around Anahuac NWR. This is a species that is often not in the same place each year, due to the ever-changing conditions of these fields, not just from year to year, but week to week, and day to day. Therefore, it is best to check with locally-based Tropical Birding guides at the Houston Audubon Field Station on 5th Street for the latest information on the best fields to check. Usually one of the best areas is to check fields along the main highway into the Anahuac NWR (i.e. the 1985, Whites Ranch Road). PLEASE NOTE: This is a paved road, with a 70m speed limit, and so ensure you park off the verge as much as possible, and take care getting out of your car, as local people frequently drive very fast along this stretch of road!
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)
Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa
solitaria)
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)
Willet (Tringa
semipalmata)
Both “Western” and “Eastern” Willets occur in the area, with the former a wintering species that lingers into spring, and the latter a local and conspicuous breeder. Willets are easily seen all through the spring, although the “Western” may have moved north to breed by later in the spring (late April-early May). A particular place to see them is along the entrance road to HAS Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, as the “Eastern” breeders often call prominently from fence posts, but they are conspicuous in display flight all along the Bolivar Peninsula during the spring.
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
Red Knot (Calidris canutus)
Small numbers pass through during spring migration through the months of March and April. This federally protected species is always high on a visiting birders list, and so joining one of the Tropical Birding led field trips for Houston Audubon is a good way of finding this species. Regular, in small numbers, along the flat at Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, anywhere beyond the vehicular barrier. At this season, a range of plumages may be seen, all the way from non-breeding to nearly full, red, breeding dress.
Sanderling (Calidris alba)

A wintering species, which is easy to find during spring, hugging the edge of the surf along the beach at HAS Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary.
Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla)
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)
Least Sandpiper (Calidris
minutilla)
White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris
fuscicollis)

A common spring migrant that comes through the area in good numbers each spring, but can be missed as the peak for their movement through the area is late spring (i.e. late April and well into May). Fields holding hundreds and even thousands of them are not uncommon in the late spring, but can be missed by early spring visitors. They are also fans of ephemeral habitats, like damp rice fields, which change not only from year to year, but rapidly through the spring. A good White-rump field may be excellent on a Wednesday and filled with hundreds of them, but come Saturday, following dry weather, may have dried out, with no birds present at all.  Therefore, getting up to the minute local information on where the fields in best condition for them is often crucial to finding the species. The fields around Anahuac NWR are good locations to find them, but the exact field is unknown until the time of your visit. The Tropical Birding guides, based at the Houston Audubon Field Station, opposite Boy Scout Woods on 5th Street, are often a good source of the latest information on this, or try asking the HAS volunteers at the booth in the sanctuary itself for help on finding this species.
Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii)
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)
Dunlin (Calidris
alpina)
Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris
himantopus)
Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites
subruficollis)

A bird that is frequently asked for in this area, and can be tricky to find, as they are migrants heading north, and often do not pause for long. The classic areas to find them are in flooded rice fields around Anahuac NWR. The problematic part of finding them is this is a temporal habitat that changes greatly through the spring; a wet bird-filled field one day, can be nearly completely dry and birdless by the next day following prolonged dry conditions. This is definitely a bird that if you are seeking it, you need to ask around (e.g. Tropical Birding/Houston Audubon guides), to find where they have been seen of late. Up to the minute information is critical to getting this species, which rarely stays for long. Their presence in the area seems to peak generally around mid-April. If you visit in this period you have a chance (though it is not guaranteed), as long as you target the bird, and seek the latest news of the species first.
Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)
A late spring migrant through the area, peaking in appearance in late April and early May. Good places to search for this never numerous wader are at the High Island oilfields, Anahuac NWR, and also migrating along the shoreline at Bolivar Flats.

GULLS
Ring-billed Gull (Larus
delawarensis)

As with American Herring Gull, present year-round in abundance, and readily found, especially along the coast of the Bolivar Peninsula.
Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus)

A rare northern gull, which turns up most regularly during the March-April period (early April more than later in the month). Most often recorded at Bolivar Flats, or along the beaches between there and High Island. Luck is required to see this during a peak time (late April) spring visit to the area, when other migrants hit their highest numbers and variety.
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)

A scare visitor to the area, though is most regularly seen during springtime, perhaps as a consequence of the greater number of birders at that time in the area. Most often found loafing on the beach with other gulls and terns at Bolivar Flats. Birders seeking the rarer gulls, such as this species, should also check the beach between High Island and Rollover Pass, which is also a productive area for resting gulls.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)
Another scarce gull, marginally more regularly encountered than Great Black-backed Gull, and similarly nest looked for at Bolivar Flats and on the beaches between Rollover Pass and High Island. They are found most often during March and April, resting with other gulls and terns.
American Herring Gull (Larus smithsonianus)

A common and constant presence, year-round; easily found along the coast of the Bolivar Peninsula.
Bonaparte's Gull (Larus philadelphia)
Laughing Gull (Larus
atricilla)

A very common resident in the area; unmissable. Particularly common on the Bolivar Peninsula.
Franklin's Gull (Larus pipixcan)
An erratic spring migrant in small numbers, most often seen during April and sometimes into early May. Good places to search for them are at Rollover Pass, between High Island and Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, and also down at Bolivar Flats too. Mostly singles and small groups are involved and so even at the right time of year, you need some luck to see one.

TERNS
Sooty Tern (Onychoprion
fuscatus)

A very rare bird in this area; although breeding has been reported much further south in Texas, they remain a rare and irregular visitor to the Upper Texas Coast, mainly recorded between March and October. This would be a good find at any time.
Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus)

A very rare bird along the coast. While they have been recorded regularly, and in good numbers, during pelagics off of the Texas Coast (further south in the Gulf, east of South Padre), between May and November, they remain only very rarely seen from land.
Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) *see above
Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne
caspia)

A resident and breeder in the area, present year-round. Wghile never as numerous as some other terns that gather in large flocks (e.g. Royal and Common Terns), this species is usually readily found in small numbers (ones and twos mainly) during spring by checking Rollover Pass, and Bolivar Flats.
Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
Forster's Tern (Sterna
forsteri)
Royal Tern (Thalasseus
maximus)
One of the most conspicuous terns in the region. A resident breeder that is easy to find year-round, especially at Rollover Pass and Bolivar Flats, where packs of them regularly rest on the shoreline.
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)

A species that occurs year-round on this part of the Upper Texas Coast, although in lesser numbers during the winter. In springtime, they are conspicuous and easy to find at Rollover Pass Bolivar Flats, and breed in the local area. During April it is not uncommon to observe their breeding antics and mating activity.

SKIMMERS
Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger)


JAEGERS AND SKUAS
Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius
pomarinus)

A rare wanderer to the area, most likely seen singly on the beaches along the Bolivar Peninsula in late spring, or following fishing trawlers offshore. Fortune is definitely required to get this species in the area!

PIGEONS AND DOVES
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)

A regular bird seen year-round in more urbanized areas. Not as common down on the coast as it is within inland cities though.
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
This is an invasive species that is spreading from northern Texas, and is now regularly encountered in small numbers in and around High Island. Still outnumbered by Mourning Doves in this area, and more abundant in Houston than on this part of the coast.
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

A familiar breeding resident of the area, which is easily located. Their mournful calls are one of the backdrops of springtime in High Island.
White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)
This is a recent colonizer to the area from south Texas, turning up in greater numbers and further north in the state each year. Small numbers occur around High Island, (mainly during springtime), where they are regularly seen, and presumed to breed in the area. Although one of the least common doves in the area, they are quite conspicuous and are becoming increasingly regularly recorded during the spring migration season.
Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina)
A species that breeds in southern Texas, that regularly wanders north (if in small very numbers) to this region of the Upper Texas Coast, both in winter and also during spring time. Small numbers are recorded in the local area each year (Anahuac seems to be one of the better places), but you still require some luck and local knowledge to see one during a short spring visit.
Inca Dove (Columbina inca)

A known breeding in the area, and readily found on the edges of Boy Scout Woods sanctuary on 5th Street, or around the parking lot for there. Similarly, it is also regular at any feeders in town, such as those across the street from Boy Scout Woods, behind the Houston Audubon Field Station (formerly the Tropical Birding Information Center).

CUCKOOS
Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)

As with the next species, a regular migrant through High Island in late April/early May, but typically in lower numbers than Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Good places to search for it are Boy Scout Woods and Smith Oaks, both in High Island, especially during an afternoon wave of migrant arrivals, which occurs on some days during this period.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)

A regular spring migrant through the High Island sanctuaries in spring, peaking in late April to early May. Generally, more numerous than Black-billed in the area. Smith Oaks is arguably the best place to find it, although it can also turn at at the drip in front of the Grandstand at Boy Scout Woods. While regular, it can never be guaranteed on any given day, as the ebb and flow of migration is unpredictable day-to-day, but the species should be found during an extended spring visit during late April.
Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

A regular, though rare wanderer into the region, most often during late winter, with only occasional records into April. Therefore, this is not expected during spring, though can occur.

BARN-OWLS
Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

A local breeder in small numbers. Has bred in Smith Oaks Sanctuary previously, and the owl box on the road into Bolivar Flats (Rettilon Road) is often occupied during spring, but it is not always possible to see the birds when they are tucked inside, as they often are. Birders seeking this species locally can try two distinct spots. The HAS Boy Scout Woods parking lot on 5th Street around dusk time is a regular spot for it; otherwise waiting around the owl box (on the south side of the road) on Rettilon Road should also pay off at this time, when they become more active and conspicuous. A targeted search during spring should find this species.

OWLS
Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops
asio)
A rare and erratic species around High Island, and not recorded even annually. However, the species breeds not too far away, and is readily found in the Pineywoods (i.e. near Jasper), to the north. People seeking this species should venture there, as it is highly unlikely during spring close to High Island.
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

Breeds in the area is small numbers, though not easy to find. Most often is heard in Smith Oaks woods, and there has been a roosting bird intermittently in recent years below the High Island bridge. Has also bred at the TOS Sanctuary Hook Woods on 1st Street in recent years too. While likely around during a spring visit, seeking the latest local knowledge is best to try and find one in the immediate area. Likely more easily found by going north to Beaumont, and somewhere like Tyrrell Park.

Barred Owl (Strix varia)
Short-eared Owl (Asio
flammeus)

NIGHTJARS
Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles
acutipennis)
Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)
Chuck-will's-widow (Caprimulgus carolinensis)
Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus)


SWIFTS
Chimney Swift (Chaetura
pelagica)
A regular spring migrant in the area, and also thought to breed locally. Chimney Swifts begin to arrive in late March, with the biggest numbers evident by mid-April. Any visit during mid-April or after are virtually assured of this conspicuous species, most often fluttering and calling over the entrance to Boy Scout Woods, where the Audubon Society has built a false chimney for them to use, and which they have been observed using.

HUMMINGBIRDS
Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia
yucatanensis)

A scarce winter visitor to High Island, typically around January to March, with only occasional records later than that. Has turned up in both Boy Scout Woods and Smith Oaks, which are both places to check any hummingbirds during the spring. However, typically, this species does only rarely occur as late as April-May, in the main period of migration. Not to be expected.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
A spring migrant through the area, turning up from late March through to early May. Good numbers start turning up from mid-April. Visitors in late April are likely to get this species. Often feeds on bottlebrush flowers in the gardens across the road from Boy Scout Woods (i.e. in the Houston Audubon Field Station yard and and at The Roost).
Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus
platycercus)
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus
rufus)
This western hummingbird is typically a rare winter visitor to the High Island area, most often recorded in the months of February and March. Occasionally birds turn up later in the season, during the classic migration period, but this is rare and not even annual.

KINGFISHERS
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

A non-breeding visitor to High Island, present most of the year, except for the months of June and July; thought to breed only a short distance to the north in Texas. It is usually easy to find during an April spring visit, especially around HAS Smith Oaks, particularly at Smith Pond, or Claybottom Pond (i.e. where the rookery).

WOODPECKERS
Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

A scarce, only occasional spring visitor to High Island itself, which lacks extensive woodland, but easily found during only a short trip from there, as it is a local breeder. The closest available birds are in Whites Park, Anahuac (around 25 miles away) , beside the I-10 (at around 29.839299, -94.651235). It can also be readily found in a half day trip to the Pineywoods to the north, near Jasper (e.g. in stands of dead trees around Sam Rayburn Reservoir 31.155688, -94.228982).


Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
A regular species in High Island year-round, where it is also known to breed. More regularly heard than seen, but often encountered in HAS Smith Oaks. An expected species at any time of year there, if in small numbers due to the limited spread of trees present.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
A winter, spring and fall migrant through High Island. Hard to know whether birds in spring are winterers moving up from further south (e.g. from their Central American wintering grounds), or lingering winter visitors. The highest numbers are found during March to early May, implying they are largely birds that have wintered south moving north for spring. More likely to be seen earlier in the spring season than later on, as records typically peter out by late April-early May.
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Regularly recorded during winter and spring on the Upper Texas Coast, but not thought to breed locally. However, seen often between February and May, and frequently recorded in Smith Oaks within High Island.
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus
pileatus)
A rare visitor to High Island (usually between March-early May), which breeds not too far away in the bigger woodlands found to the north. Unlikely to be seen in High Island, but readily found if a half-day/full day trip to the Pineywoods near Jasper, a 2-hour drive away, and an area that will provide plentiful extra species to compliment those found around High Island.

TYRANT FLYCATCHERS
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax
flaviventris)
Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax
virescens)
Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax
traillii)
Alder Flycatcher (Empidonax
alnorum)
Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus)
Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus
cooperi)
Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens)
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus
rubinus)
A regular, though never numerous winter visitor to the area, particularly around Anahuac NWR. However, these birds have typically moved on by late March, and so are unlikely during a typical spring season within April.
Couch's Kingbird (Tyrannus couchii)
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus
verticalis)
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

An abundant spring migrant and breeder in the area, turning up in good numbers from around early April onwards. A spring time visit is assured of finding this conspicuous species in High Island itself.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus)
A conspicuous, and stunning, species that arrives in early spring (generally very late March/early April) and breeds in the area. Very easy to find after this time sitting on roadside wires anywhere along the Bolivar Peninsula (e.g. Rettilon Road that leads to Bolivar Flats), and also on fences surrounding the massive fields on the road into Anahuac NWR (i.e. Highway 65).
Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens)
Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus
crinitus)
A regular, and typically highly vocal, migrant through High Island in spring, typically between early April and early May. Often heard during visits from mid-April onwards, but never numerous, and so could be missed, in spite of its regularity, particularly if the call is not known.

LARKS
Horned Lark (Eremophila
alpestris)

Present in the area as both a winter migrant, and also a resident, coastal breeder. Small numbers are present year-round at HAS Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, and presumably breed in the area. They are best looked for foraging at the border of the vegetation at the top side (inland) side of the beach. A few focused visits in the spring should ensure a sighting.

SWALLOWS
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia)
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
Purple Martin (Progne subis)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx
serripennis)
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon
pyrrhonota)
Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon
fulva)

WAGTAILS AND PIPITS
Sprague's Pipit (Anthus
spragueii)
American Pipit (Anthus
rubescens)

KINGLETS
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus
satrapa)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)


WAXWINGS
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla
cedrorum)

A winter visitor and spring migrant through the area. It is an irruptive species, so varies in number year-on-year, but generally they move through the area well into early May, and so are often seen during a short spring visit. They are fond of mulberries, and good stands to check for this species are in the small yard right around the Houston Audubon Field Station (formerly the Tropical Birding Information Center), opposite Boy Scout Woods on 5th Street.

WRENS
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)
Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis)
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)

Present year-round in the area, both as a breeding resident, and a migrant. Good numbers of them breed in the marshes at nearby Anahuac NWR, (15 miles from High Island), and the species should easily be seen in a single visit to Shoveler Pond within the refuge. They are also found at various sites along the Bolivar Peninsula, and a small number are also present in the pond at the back of HAS Boy Scout Woods too.

MOCKINGBIRDS AND THRASHERS
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)

A common spring migrant and winter visitor to the High Island and the Upper Texas Coast. This is one of the most abundant migrants during April and May, and so easily seen on a short visit to the area, (e.g. the drip by the grandstand in HAS Boy Scout Woods is a very good place for them).
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
A common breeding resident in the area, impossible to miss at many local sites.
Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)

THRUSHES
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia
sialis)
Veery (Catharus
fuscescens)
Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus)
Swainson's Thrush (Catharus
ustulatus)
Hermit Thrush (Catharus
guttatus)
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

On High Island itself, not a regular bird to see in spring, only rarely present at this time, being a fall and winter visitor to the area. However, easily found as a breeding bird in the Pineywoods to the north.

GNATCATCHERS
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila
caerulea)

CHICKADEES AND TITS
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile
carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)


NUTHATCHES
Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta
pusilla)
A Pineywoods resident and specialty, not found in High Island. However, readily found in half-day/full day trips from there to Pineywoods sites near Jasper north of Winnie; (e.g. Angelina National Forest, a 2-hour/100-mile drive). Also found at W. G. Jones State Forest, 26 miles north of Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (at around 30.2213614,-95.630064).
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

CREEPERS
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)


SHRIKES
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius
ludovicianus)

A conspicuous local breeder, readily found either in High Island itself, or especially on roadside wires on the roads around Anahuac NWR. Present year-round.

CROWS, JAYS, AND MAGPIES
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
American Crow (Corvus
brachyrhynchos)
Fish Crow (Corvus
ossifragus)

STARLINGS
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)


OLD WORLD SPARROWS
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)


VIREOS AND ALLIES
White-eyed Vireo (Vireo
griseus)
Bell's Vireo (Vireo
bellii)
Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo
flavifrons)
Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)
Warbling Vireo (Vireo
gilvus)
Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo
philadelphicus)
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo
olivaceus)

SISKINS, CROSSBILLS, AND ALLIES
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
American Goldfinch (Carduelis
tristis)

NEW WORLD WARBLERS

High Island is absolutely legendary for warblers, and warbler migration, providing vital stop over habitat for them on both their northward spring migrations, and southbound fall movements.

For several reasons, spring is the best time to visit though:

  • The warblers are in their brightest, most vivid, colors in spring breeding plumage. In fall, they are dull, and confusing to identify,

  • Spring migration is much more funneled into a smaller period of time, therefore, making it easier to hit a big day at that time of year, relative to the fall.

  • The climate is also at its most favorable and comfortable in spring; during fall migration temperatures are higher, humidity is more intense, and the higher volumes of mosquitoes make it far more uncomfortable to bird the area at that time.

  • If you want to get the highest diversity of warblers during a short spring visit, then the second two weeks of April is usually the best time for overall diversity, although if you can stay longer then you should also consider a longer trip from earlier in April, allowing you to pick up some of the early movers, like Yellow-throated and Hooded Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Northern Parula, as well as the later movers, like Bay-breasted and Canada Warblers.

On big “drop in” days, or increasingly rare “fallout” days, prepare to be dazed by sheer numbers and dazzled by an endless palette of color. In spring, upwards of thirty-five species of radiant warblers pack the oak-filled woodlands of the celebrated HAS Boy Scout Woods and HAS Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary. Including bountiful orioles, grosbeaks, buntings, cuckoos, tanagers, and flycatchers, the annual spring migration sensation of songbirds at High Island create an overwhelming natural theater experience. From ground-creeping Swainson’s Warblers to canopy-hopping Blackburnian Warblers and swamp-loving Prothonotary Warblers, the Upper Texas Coast is literally swarming with warbler action during April and sometimes into early May. Chestnut-sided and Magnolia Warblers guide you through the sanctuary trails, flitting around at arm’s reach, while Black-and-white Warblers climb like nuthatches along thick oak trunks and through tangles. American Redstarts nervously flick and flash their wings and tails, showing off their brilliant jet black-and-orange suits. A blaze of bright yellow flashes from the shadows of a cypress trunk as a masked Kentucky Warbler prowls for insect prey. When conditions are right for a fallout, or big drop in, birders find themselves in a trance of sheer commotion as hordes of warblers drop to the coastal woodlands in colossal numbers. For thousands of Neotropical migrants, this island of trees in High Island is an essential spring staging point. For birders, it’s a luxury. While breeding and wintering sites are often talked of as threats to such celebrity species, we should never forget the extreme importance of staging habitat too for birds that undergo long migrations, and need these to support themselves on their epic journeys. 

 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora pinus)
Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora
chrysoptera)
Tennessee Warbler (Vermivora
peregrina)
Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora
celata)
Nashville Warbler (Vermivora
ruficapilla)
Northern Parula (Parula americana)
Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica
pensylvanica)
Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)
Cape May Warbler (Dendroica tigrina)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Dendroica
caerulescens)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica
virens)
Blackburnian Warbler (Dendroica fusca)
Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica
dominica)
Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus)
Prairie Warbler (Dendroica discolor)
Palm Warbler (Dendroica
palmarum)
Bay-breasted Warbler (Dendroica
castanea)
Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica
striata)
Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica
cerulea)
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta
varia)
American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)
Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria
citrea)
Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros
vermivorum)
Swainson's Warbler (Limnothlypis
swainsonii)
Ovenbird (Seiurus
aurocapilla)
Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus
noveboracensis)
Louisiana Waterthrush (Seiurus
motacilla)
Kentucky Warbler (Oporornis
formosus)
Mourning Warbler (Oporornis
philadelphia)
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia
citrina)
Wilson's Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla)
Canada Warbler (Wilsonia
canadensis)
Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens)


TANAGERS AND ALLIES
Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)
Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)


BUNTINGS, SPARROWS, SEEDEATERS, AND ALLIES
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo
maculatus)
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella
pallida)
Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)
Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus)
Lark Sparrow (Chondestes
grammacus)
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus
sandwichensis)
Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus
maritimus)
Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus
nelsoni)
Le Conte's Sparrow (Ammodramus
leconteii)
Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus
savannarum)
Fox Sparrow (Passerella
iliaca)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza
lincolnii)
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
Harris's Sparrow (Zonotrichia
querula)
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)


SALTATORS, CARDINALS, AND ALLIES
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

A resident and conspicuous species in High Island that is impossible to miss in springtime when they are very vocal and showy!
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
Blue Grosbeak (Passerina
caerulea)
Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

A regular and sometimes very abundant spring migrant through the area; they typically come through in waves and are therefore conspicuous when around. Their high-pitched calls are also often heard overhead during afternoons of significant movement. Although breeders further north in Texas, they do not breed in the immediate local area.
Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)
One of the baubles of springtime; they are mainly migrants in the local area, although a handful are thought to breed, in High Island and along the Bolivar Peninsula. Their spring migration peaks in late April (starting in early April), and from mid-April onwards there is a good chance of finding them. The species tends to come through in waves, and so they are usually conspicuous at times of good movement, especially in the mulberry bushes in Smith Oaks during the afternoons, and a single bird seems to have kept a territory the last few years near the platform at the back of Boy Scout Woods (overlooking the pond). Another good place to find them is in the garden of the Houston Audubon Field Station (formerly the Tropical Birding Information Center) opposite Boy Scout Woods on 5th Street; either at the feeders behind the building, or foraging in the yard. In some years singles overwinter and are therefore present in early spring too (i.e. March).
Dickcissel (Spiza americana)

TROUPIALS AND ALLIES
Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

An annual, though scarce migrant through the area. Far more often heard flying overhead than seen. Underrecorded due to some lack of knowledge of the call. Late April-May is the peak time, and good places to try and find them are along the Bolivar Peninsula, and also in the fields around Anahuac NWR. A difficult migrant to see however, as they mostly fly over, and do not seem to pause for long when they do drop down. Easy to miss on a short visit, even when they are around!
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Common and conspicuous in springtime in High Island and its surrounds. Unmissable!
Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)

A common and regular bird in prairies year-round, and a conspicuous breeder in the area. Good places to see and hear them in spring are along the entrance road (Rettilon Road) to Bolivar Flats, and also in the prairie areas of Anahuac NWR.
Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)
A scarce, though likely annual, spring migrant through the area; most regularly located among gatherings of blackbirds at feeders or on fields (e.g. High Island High School field, the feeders-if present-in the High Island Caravan Park). Rare and difficult to find, though they tend to appear in the peak of spring migration, around late April. You need some fortune to get this one, but it can appear right in High Island.
Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)
A common breeder in both freshwater and saltwater marshes in the area, though vastly outnumbered by Great-tailed Grackle, which is not such a habitat specialist. Boat-tailed Grackle is common and particularly easily seen at Anahuac NWR, on the Shoveler Pond loop. Note: In the Gulf subspecies, the Boat-tailed Grackle has a dark eye, unlike in many other parts of its range.
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

A common and conspicuous bird in the area, readily found during any springtime visit.
Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)
Very common, unmissable, resident in this area, found in almost all habitats.
Bronzed Cowbird (Molothrus aeneus)

Although present year-round in the south of Texas, and a known breeder there, it is only an occasional visitor, as a migrant during spring. The best month for them in and around High Island is usually April. This bird should not be expected in this area, as it is scarce as a migrant, although the best chance of finding one is searching through any large concentrations of blackbirds, particularly if there are any active feeders in town during spring. Even though they are not known to breed in this part of Texas, displaying males have been noted in High Island occasionally.
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
Present year-round, although most numerous during spring (April-May), when birds that have wintered further south move north to breed in the area. Unmissable during a spring visit to High Island. Pay attention to large gatherings of cowbirds and blackbirds in this season for the rarer Yellow-headed Blackbird and Bronzed Cowbird.
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)