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Research and Monitoring

Gulf Seawatch, a Coastal Migration Pilot Project

Photo by Greg Lavaty, Texas Target Birds

The Gulf Coast shoreline is used extensively by birds as they migrate and disperse from breeding areas. Birders on Texas Gulf beaches often catch a glimpse of migratory flocks seen just offshore. Waterfowl, wading birds, seabirds, and shorebirds commonly use the shoreline as a guide on their journeys. This ecological detail provides an opportunity to document these migrations and potentially monitor populations. Many seaside locations the world over have been used to study bird migrations, but the Western Gulf of Mexico has yet to have a seawatch program. The Gulf Seawatch is a pilot project to determine feasibility and utility of a permanent seawatch located on the beach just south of High Island, Texas.

Join Our Survey

Gulf Seawatch is a non-standard sampling survey with the goal of estimating waterbird density, diversity, and movements. A Seawatch survey is conducted for at least 30 minutes and a maximum of two hours from the designated seawatch site. All birds visible and audible should be counted. Any unidentifiable birds can be recorded to the level of taxonomic certainty e.g. gull sp. or jaeger sp. If you would like to participate in the survey, please contact Richard Gibbons, Conservation Director, at

Identification Aids

Identifying gannets or gulls flying by a quarter mile away is a daunting task. Fortunately there is a new field guide specifically designed to help birders recognize these species. The Peterson’s Reference Guide to Seawatching, authored by Tropical Birding Guides Ken Behrens and Cameron Cox provides an excellent primer for this monitoring program.

  • A generous loan of spotting scopes and binoculars from Swarovski Optik will make those distant birds as clear and bright as an observer could hope. The rest will depend on experience and study.