I first birded there in 1998, during the Brazoria Migration Celebration. I was a little apprehensive as I followed the trail into the cluster of vines and small trees but was soon relieved to discover running water and benches. Before I could find an empty seat, I recorded Hooded and Cape May Warblers, and as I sat down, a Louisiana Waterthrush came in for a drink, followed by an Ovenbird. The sanctuary is on an island, and many bird species can be seen, including Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Magnificent Frigatebird, Roseate Spoonbill, and a number of shorebirds. The big attractions are spring migrants such as warblers, vireos, buntings, thrushes, and hummingbirds.
Along the property’s walking trail, you might see White-eyed and Blue-throated Vireos, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. We have the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in nearby Lake Jackson to thank for managing this treasure.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Salt cedars and grassy fields. Quintana Island has depressional wetlands and prairie, scrub, and upland areas.
More than 325 species. Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Common Loon, Snowy Egret, Green Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Franklin’s Gull, Royal and Forster’s Terns, Northern Flicker, Rufous Hummingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos, kinglets, thrushes, Gray Catbird, Eastern and Western Kingbirds, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Tennessee, Orange-crowned, Magnolia, Palm, Wilson’s, and other warblers, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Nelson’s, Harris’s, and Lark Sparrows, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Bunting, orioles, Yellow-headed Blackbird. Rarities: Kelp Gull, Purple Sandpiper, Pyrrhuloxia, Tropical Parula.
When to go
Year-round. Most species diversity in April.
Observation tower, photography blind, and benches. Throughout April, during the Spring Fling, the observatory’s annual migration celebration, staff on site daily.
Gulf Coast Bird Observatory sanctuary. Open daily from dawn to dusk, all year. No entrance fee, but donations toward upkeep are appreciated.
Bring a lunch. A scope can be useful to watch seabirds on the bay.
For more info
Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, (979) 480-0999
Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, Upper Texas Coast
Quintana Xeriscape Nature Reserve
0.2 miles northeast of sanctuary. Includes a trail and hummingbird garden. More than 240 species.
Beaches and jetties at Quintana and Surfside
Located on opposite sides of the Freeport Harbor Channel. Great for seabirds. King Eider in 2008.