Hotspots Near You

195. Smith Point Hawk Watch, Smith Point, Texas

A hawk watch on the shores of Galveston Bay in southeastern Texas, where raptors often fly low over the watch tower.
By Susan A. Heath | Published: 8/18/2014

Watching the fall migration at Smith Point is an incredible experience. I have seen the power lines along the road filled with Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Eastern Kingbirds and the sky above the tower loaded with Mississippi Kites and Broad-winged Hawks as well as handfuls of Swallow-tailed Kites and Swainson’s Hawks.

Look closely; see those white and black dots high up? They are migrating Wood Storks, American White Pelicans, and Anhingas. And you simply can’t ignore the Magnificent Frigatebirds that glide back and forth all day. Does it get any better than this?

If you can tear yourself away from the tower, take a walk through the oak mottes (small stands of trees) because there’s no telling what you will find. Warblers, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, grosbeaks, buntings — you name it, it can be there, and the possibility for a rarity is high. I am not a photographer, but if you are, then don’t miss Smith Point in the fall. No place is better for raptor photography. The birds come in low over the tower and often circle around, giving ample opportunity for photos. — Susan A. Heath

Susan A. Heath is an avian conservation biologist at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Lake Jackson, Texas, and the coordinator of the Smith Point Hawk Watch. 

195. Smith Point Hawk Watch, Smith Point, Texas

Directions

Smith Point Hawk Watch lies at the tip of a peninsula that juts into Galveston Bay. From east- or westbound I-10, exit onto Hwy. 61 and drive south to FM 562. Go eight miles and turn right to stay on FM 562. Continue 14 miles to Smith Point. Turn left at the Candy Abshier WMA and follow the signs to the parking lot and watch tower.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
29°31’34.22″N 94°45’57.31″W

Habitat

Coastal prairie with oak mottes.

Terrain

Flat. Tower wheelchair-accessible. Visitors can view birds from parking lot. Rough trails through oak mottes.

Birds

Yearly average: 52,000 raptors. Broad-winged Hawk (70% of total), Mississippi Kite (9%), Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks (8%), American Kestrel (3%), plus Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Swainson’s, Red-tailed, and White-tailed Hawks, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Crested Caracara, and Swallow-tailed and White-tailed Kites. Eastern warblers, swallows, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, kingbirds, American White and Brown Pelicans, Wood Stork, Anhinga, Magnificent Frigatebird, shorebirds, gulls, terns, and waterfowl. Rarities: Hook-billed Kite, Cassin’s Kingbird, Rock Wren, Clark’s Nutcracker, Varied Thrush.

When to go

Fall. Raptor migration peaks in last two weeks of September. Passerine migration excellent from early August through October; pelicans, storks, and Anhingas in September; waterfowl in October.

Amenities

24-foot hawk-watch tower. Portable toilet August 1-November 15. Closest amenities in Anahuac, about a 30-minute drive.

Access

Hawk watch operated by Gulf Coast Bird Observatory within state-run wildlife management area. Tower open year-round; no fees.

Tips

Bring food, drink, sunscreen, bug spray, hat, sunglasses, binoculars, scope, camera, and enthusiasm.

For more info

Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, (979) 480-0999.
Smith Point Hawk Watch blog
Houston Audubon Society
Hawkcount.org profile

Sites nearby

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
23 miles from Smith Point on FM 563. Great for ducks and geese in winter; wading birds and alligators year-round.

High Island
38 miles from Smith Point on Hwy. 124. One of North America’s premier spring birding spots.

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