TEXAS GEMS -NORTH DEER ISLAND SANCTUARY
North Deer Island is a 10 acre+ natural island in West Galveston Bay. North Deer is one of the few natural islands left in Galveston Bay, most natural islands have been lost due to subsidence and erosion. North Deer is one of the most important colonial waterbird nesting islands on the Upper Texas Coast, used by 10,000 - 30,000 pairs of birds each year. Approximately 1/3 of North Deer Island has had dredge spoil deposited on it. It is located in Galveston County.
Area of Influence:
Watershed # 12040204- West Bay/West Galveston
Bay (USGS Hydrologic Units, Texas Maps).
4b- Estuarine Zone of Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes (Ecoregions and Sub-regions of Texas).
North Deer Island is made up of uplands, some of which has had dredge spoil dumped on it, and salt marsh. Uplands that have been spoiled are covered by grass, Iva sp. (a medium size shrub), salt cedars and cactus. The uplands that have not been spoiled are covered by a plant community unique on the Upper Texas Coast. Predominant trees are lime prickly ash, mesquite, paloverde and mulberry. The predominant shrub is lantana, and large portions of the uplands are covered with cactus. The herbaceous vegetation is still being studied. High quality salt marshes border the uplands on the southeast side of the island.
North Deer Island is an important nesting site for Roseate
Spoonbills, Reddish Egrets and White-faced Ibis, which are
species of concern in Texas.
Rare/endangered/threatened species and natural communities
with occurrence record on the refuge include:
Texas Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin littoralis)
North Deer Island Bird Rookery
North Deer Island is an important breeding site for 15 species of colonial waterbirds. 10,000 - 30,000 pairs of birds breed on the island annually. The salt marshes on the southeast side of North Deer Island are nurseries for fish and shellfish.
The salt marshes on the southeast side of North Deer are important foraging sites for birds breeding on the island.
All species nesting on North Deer Island are migratory to some degree. In the winter, island marshes are used by migrating waterfowl.
North Deer island provides high quality nesting habitat for 15 species of colonial waterbirds which are an important part of the coastal ecosystem. Island marshes provide foraging and nursery areas for Galveston Bay vertebrates and invertebrates in a part of the bay that is rapidly losing its salt marshes.
Uniqueness of Natural Community:
North Deer Island is one of the few natural islands left in Galveston Bay and it supports a high quality salt marsh.
Archaeological and Cultural Significance:
North Deer Island was undoubtedly used by Native Americans, but to our knowledge no exploration for archeological sites has been done on the island
Existing or Potential Use of the Site:
Several groups conduct educational field trips around the island on boats during the nesting season.
Bird watchers and other interested bay users frequently boat by the island to observe the large numbers of birds. Fishing activities take place around the island.
Some of the boating trips around the island are by commercial tourism companies catering to avid birders.
One third undivided interest in the island is owned by the National Audubon Society, one third undivided interest in the island is owned by the Houston Audubon Society and one third undivided interest is owned by a private individual.
North Deer Island is a Houston Audubon/National Audubon Bird sanctuary.
The island is managed as a bird sanctuary. No trespassing signs are posted on the island and predators on the island are removed. Habitat management is not needed at this time.
Existing Monitoring Activities:
During the breeding season the island warden monitors the bird populations of the island and progress of the nesting season.
The one third undivided interest of the island that is still in private ownership should be acquired by the Houston or the National Audubon.
The north end of the island needs to be protected from damaging waves that are causing erosion.
Threats to Ecological Integrity:
An oil or chemical spill in the Intracoastal Waterway, which is adjacent to the island, could cause a great deal of ecological damage to the island.
Continued management to prevent disturbance of nesting is essential to the continued breeding success of birds that use the island.
Houston Audubon Society