State of South Carolina

Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus ©Dan Pancamo - Wikimedia Website
Birding South Carolina

Despite its small size, South Carolina includes a wide variety of different habitats. And because of its small size, most of these can be visited in a relatively short time; the determined birder can visit both mountains and coastline in a single day.

Most of the best birding spots are along the coast. Even heavily developed areas like Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head are prone to landbird fallouts during migration. Huntington Beach State Park, not far from Myrtle Beach, is renowned as the state’s hottest hotspot, with abundant shorebirds, many waterfowl and landbirds, and good opportunities for observing marsh and ocean specialties; recent visitors have included White Wagtail and Smith’s Longspur. Further south, the Low Country is full of lush forests, massive river deltas, and beautiful barrier islands. Painted Buntings are common breeders, and Swallow-tailed Kites also nest in the region.

Santee and Savannah National Wildlife Refuges can both host large waterfowl concentrations in winter, while Pinckney Island NWR has wide variety of herons, egrets, and other waders which breed or visit. Bear Island Wildlife Management Area is well known for its collections of waterbirds of all stripes, from rails to terns. While no pelagic birding trips operate in the state, birders on offshore fishing boats have encountered Black-capped Petrels and Band-rumped Storm-petrels, among other species. On the inland side of the coastal plain is the Congaree Swamp National Monument, a dazzling patch of virgin forest with a great variety of trees and many huge individuals. This ancient forest hosts a great abundance of woodpeckers of every eastern species, formerly even including the Ivory-billed; Red-cockaded still nests in one part of the park, as does Swainson’s Warbler.

The Piedmont has few local specialties, and is the most heavily developed part of the state. However, the Congaree, Broad, and Saluda Rivers, among others, flow through this region, forming ribbons of rich riparian forest that harbor many landbird species, especially during migration. There are no natural lakes here, but the many artificial ones created for fishing and other recreation have become habitat for many wintering loons and other waterbirds, while waterfowl are particularly abundant in the impoundments of the Broad River and Enoree River Wildlife Management Areas. The many sprawling tracts of the Sumter National Forest include breeding habitat for many species. The many hummingbird feeders in this heavily populated region have attracted Rufous, Calliope, and even Buff-bellied hummingbirds.

Last but not least, the Blue Ridge Mountains poke through the western tip of the state, providing an escape from the summertime heat and humidity. Many northern species reach the edge of their breeding range here, including Ruffed Grouse, Common Raven, and Chestnut-sided and Black-throated Blue Warblers. High points like Caesar’s Head, Table Rock, and Sassafras Mountain provide great vantage points for hawk-watching as well as migration and nesting habitat for abundant warblers of many species.

  • Joshua S. Rose

    Department of Biology (Zoology) | jsr6 at

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 432

    (As at October 2018)

    State Bird - Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus

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Useful Reading

  • Birding South Carolina

    | (A Guide to 40 Premier Birding Sites) | By Jeff Mollenhauer | Falcon Guides | 2009 | Paperback | 144 pages, illustrations | ISBN: 9780762745791 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Coastal South Carolina

    | By Roger S Everett | Schiffer | 2008 | Hardback | 144 pages, illustrations | ISBN: 9780764328459 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    | (A Field Guide) | By Ernest Preston Edwards | McDonald & Woodward Publishing | 2006 | Paperback | 142 pages, 55 full colour pages | ISBN: 9780939923960 Buy this book from
  • Birds of South Carolina

    | By Todd Telander | Falcon Guides | 2012 | Paperback | 104 pages, colour illustrations | ISBN: 9780762778928 Buy this book from
  • Birds of the Carolinas

    | By Eloise F Potter, James F Parnell, Robert P Teulings & Ricky Davis | University of North Carolina Press | 2006 | Hardback | 399 pages, Colour photos | ISBN: 9780807829998 Buy this book from
  • Compact Guide to South Carolina Birds

    | By Curtis Smalling & Gregory Kennedy | Lone Pine Publishing | 2007 | Paperback | ISBN: 9789768200266 Buy this book from
  • Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas

    | By Brian E Small & Nate Swick | ABA | 2016 | Paperback | 384 pages, 550 colour photos | ISBN: 9781935622635 Buy this book from
  • National Geographic Field Guide to Birds: Carolinas

    | Edited by Jonathan Alderfer | National Geographic Society | 2005 | Paperback | 272 pages, maps, photos, drawings | ISBN: 9780792241867 Buy this book from
  • South Carolina Birds

    | (A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species) | By James R Kavanagh & Raymond Leung | Waterford Press | 2002 | Unbound | 12 pages, colour illustrations | ISBN: 9781583551677 Buy this book from
  • Cape Romain Bird Observatory

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    We are a new nonprofit - one of our primary functions is promoting birding and ecotourism in coastal South Carolina…
  • Kiawah Island Banding Station (KIBS)

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    The Kiawah Island Banding Station (KIBS) is operated by the Town of Kiawah Island and supported by the Kiawah Island Natural Habitat Conservancy (KINHC). We would like to thank KINHC for providing financial support to purchase supplies and for providing the resources to hire three banding assistants. We would also like to thank Kiawah Development Partners for allowing access to their land to band birds. Last but not least, we would like to thank all of the volunteers that have donated countless hours to KIBS.
Museums & Universities
  • Coastal Carolina University - Ornithology Course

    Course goals: First, by taking this course you should come to a better understanding of evolution, physiology, behavior and ecology through the study of the abundant examples in avian biology. Second, you should acquire a basic competency in the study of birds yourself: you should be able to understand and use the vocabulary of ornithology, to describe the unique features of avian anatomy and physiology and their adaptive value, and to identify many common local birds by sight or sound or both. You should be able to formulate reasonable hypotheses about questions in ornithology and suggest practical tests of those hypotheses…
  • Riverbanks Zoo

    Thanks to a donation from BB&T bank, in 1996 a medical clinic designed specifically for the treatment of injured raptors and endangered species was constructed. Since then approximately 150 raptors have been treated each year. Owls, eagles, hawks, vultures, kestrels, kites, falcons and osprey are just some of the raptors that have been treated at the BB&T Clinic for Raptors and Endangered Species.
  • Audubon Society in South Carolina

    The usual list of local chapters.
  • Audubon South Carolina

    Audubon South Carolina protects birds and the places they need, right here in South Carolina. We’re the state office of the National Audubon Society, with one million members and a century-long track record of success.
  • Augusta-Aiken Audubon

    Facebook Page
    Our mission is to educate the public about birds, other wildlife, and habitat, and to provide opportunities for our community to appreciate the natural world. Also see the Facebook page.
  • Carolina Bird Club

    The Carolina Bird Club is a non-profit organization that represents and supports the birding community in the Carolinas through its website, publications, meetings, workshops, trips, and partnerships, whose mission is to promote the observation, enjoyment, and study of birds...
  • Carolina Young Birders Club

    The Carolina Young Birders Club was founded in 2013 by Matthew Janson. We are supported by our 'parent' club, the Carolina Bird Club. The CBC funds the CYBC and has been instrumental in the Carolina Young Birders Club's foundation and has been a continual source of support for the club. We seek to connect like-minded young birders and to help foster the next generation of birders and ornithologists.
  • Charleston Natural History Society & Charleston Audubon

    We are the Charleston Natural History Society (CNHS) – and Charleston‘s Audubon society – a South Carolina chapter of the National Audubon Society since 1970. Founded as the Charleston Natural History Society in 1905, we serve Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. We are a nonprofit environmental organization that actively promotes awareness, appreciation and conservation of the natural environment through educational programs, field trips, conservation projects, sponsored research and social activities.
  • Columbia Audubon Society

    The Columbia Audubon Society (CAS), located in Columbia, South Carolina, is a chapter of the National Audubon Society. We are active in both birding and conservation activities in and around the Midlands of South Carolina. Meetings are held several times each year, generally from September through May. Field trips are held approximately once a month. Check this web site for the most current information. Non-members are always welcome at all events. There is no charge for most meetings and field trips. The list of field trips includes both those sponsored or cosponsored by Columbia Audubon Society and selected events sponsored by other local organizations that are open to the public.
  • Greenville County Bird Club

    The Greenville County Bird Club was founded in February, 2000 by a group of people from varied walks of life with one thing in common: a love of birds and a desire to know more about these fascinating and beautiful creatures. We have joined together to provide opportunities for learning about and protecting wild birds and their habitats for future generations. Whether you are a seasoned expert or have just discovered the joys of backyard birding, we'd like to have you join us in this enjoyable and worthwhile pursuit!
  • Hilton Head Island Audubon Society

    Facebook Page
    The Hilton Head Island Audubon Society was founded in 1974. With more than 200 memberships, we are proud of our organization. Our mission is: "To promote the awareness and appreciation of nature, to preserve and protect wildlife and natural ecosystems and to encourage responsible environmental stewardship.”
  • Nature Conservancy South Carolina

    When you give today, you’re helping South Carolina’s future generations.
  • Piedmont Audubon Society

    Located in Spartanburg, SC, the Piedmont chapter of the National Audubon Society focuses on birds, other wildlife, and the ecosystems that support them. Whether you go afield to find birds, enjoy them from your armchair, or have a broad interest in the natural world, you will find a warm welcome. Please join us!
  • South Carolina Wildlife Federation

    For the last 85 years, the South Carolina Wildlife Federation (SCWF) has served as the voice for outdoor enthusiasts of every stripe. Representing hunter and birdwatcher, teacher and backpacker, boater and farmer, gardener and angler, SCWF builds partnerships to ensure everyone can enjoy South Carolina’s natural heritage and recreation opportunities for generations to come. From the Blue Ridge Mountains to its broad coastal marshes, South Carolina is blessed with an incredible diversity of natural resources that are both beautiful and accessible.
  • Waccamaw Audubon Society

    Waccamaw Audubon Society (WAS) is the local chapter of the National Audubon Society serving northeastern South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina. With over four hundred members, WAS has monthly programs and field trips (the public is invited). Waccamaw Audubon is especially proud of its recognition by the National Audubon Society, which awarded WAS one of the first-ever Rachel Carson Awards for its work in helping establish the new Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge…

Abbreviations Key

  • BS Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve manages longleaf pine habitat for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. In 2008 32 individuals were counted in 10 colonies. Lewis Ocean Bay hosts the following breeding WatchListed species:Worm-eating, Prothonotary, Prairie, and Kentucky Warblers, Wood Thrush, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Red-headed Woodpecker. Good number and diversity of neotropical migratory species.
  • BS NC Francis Beidler Forest Sanctuary - in Four Holes Swamp

    Facebook PageSatellite View
    You have entered the Francis Beidler Forest website. Francis Beidler Forest is the largest virgin blackwater cypress-tupelo swamp forest left in the world! This 11,000-acre riverine sanctuary in the heart of Four Holes Swamp embraces 1,800 acres of ancient trees that tower over blackwater streams, clear pools and 300 species of wildlife…
  • BS Silver Bluff Center and Plantation

    WebpageSatellite View
    Audubon’s Silver Bluff Sanctuary is a 3,400-acre woodland overlooking the Savannah River. Here you’ll find extensive pine forests and bottomland hardwood forests; 22 miles of horse and walking trails; 50 acres of lakes and ponds; 100 acres of grassland; and all manner of birds and wildlife. And that’s just above ground — underfoot are archaeological sites from nearly every period in American history.
  • IBA Fort Jackson Military Reservation

    WebpageSatellite View
    Fort Jackson Military Reservation is located due east of Columbia in Richland County and extends eastward to US Hwy. 601, bounded to the north by SC 12 and the south by SC 262. Located within the "Fall Line" sandhills, Ft. Jackson consists of very deep, xeric lakeland soils vegetated by a longleaf pine-scrub oak community bisected by narrow blackwater stream bottoms and with scattered man-made lakes and ponds. 30 groups of the federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker have been observed as permanent residents over a 7-year period. The Southeastern Kestrel, state species of concern,breeds at Ft. Jackson. 35 pairs have been observed in nest boxes over a period of 8 years. WatchListed: Brown-headed Nuthatches (common permanent residents), Loggerhead Shrikes (uncommon permanent residents), Bachman's Sparrows (fairly common breeders), Prairie Warblers (fairly common breeders), Swainson's Warblers (uncommon-rare breeders), Kentucky Warblers (uncommon breeders), Prothonotary Warblers (fairly common breeders), and Wood Thrushes (fairly common breeders) have been observed over an 8 year period.
  • IBA NF Francis Marion National Forest

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Francis Marion National Forest (FMNF) is ornithologically significant because it holds the northern-most concentration (50 pairs)of breeding Swallow-tailed Kites, a WatchListed species. Due to the well-managed old-growth longleaf pine habitat it is host to resident federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, approximately 350 breeding groups, one of the largest populations in the world. Several pairs of Bald Eagles nest in the forest and federally endangered Wood Storks forage here. Other longleaf pine species, which are also Watchlisted, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Bachman's Sparrow are abundant in the NF. Painted Buntings and Swainson's Warblers breed here.Approximately 100 pairs of state-listed Southeastern Kestrels nest here. Probably the largest concentration of the state-listed Wayne's race of the Black-throated Green Warbler are also nesters.The managed Tibwin Wetland Complex consistently has the highest winter hawk migration along the southeastern coast.
  • IBA NR Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center

    WebpageSatellite View
    Considered one of the most outstanding gifts to wildlife conservation in North America, the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center was willed to the SC Department of Natural Resources in 1976 by the late Tom Yawkey. The Wildlife Center embraces North, South and most of Cat Island, three coastal islands located at the mouth of Winyah Bay in Georgetown County, SC. Composed of approximately 31 square miles of marsh, managed wetlands, forest openings, ocean beach, longleaf pine forest and maritime forest, the Center is principally dedicated as a wildlife preserve, research area and waterfowl refuge. Federally Endangered birds found at Yawkey are Wood Stork and Red-cockaded Woodpecker, which reside here year-round. Piping Plover are found here all except breeding season. Least Tern occur Breeding Season, Summer and Fall. Peregrine Falcons are found here all except breeding seasons. WatchListed birds which occur at Yawkey year-round are: Bald Eagle, Common Ground-dove, Black Rail, Black Skimmer, Barn Owl, Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Bobwhite.
  • IBA WMA Bear Island

    WebpageSatellite View
    Bear Island Wildlife Management Area is a state owned property dedicated primarily to waterfowl hunting. It contains 5,385 acres of managed impoundments at 27 sites. There is also 5,005 acres of tidal marsh and 404 acres of cultivated land growing food plots. There are 1,227 acres of mixed forest. It is a major wintering area for waterfowl as well as an important shorebird area during migration. It is also an important nesting area for Bald Eagles and a foraging area for wading birds including Wood Stork, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Tri-colored Heron, White Ibis and Glossy Ibis. Concentrations of migratory shorebirds include Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Dowitcher and Common Snipe. Shorebird concentrations are noted during times of pond drawdown associated with the waterfowl management program.
  • IBA WMA Donnelly Wildlife Management Area

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Donnelley Wildlife Management Area is a state owned, 8,048 acre tract that encompasses a diversity of wetland and upland habitats including: managed rice fields, forested wetlands, tidal marsh, agricultural lands and upland forests. The combination of upland and wetland habitats provides an excellent environment for a variety of avian species. Public access makes the property available most of the year to bird watchers and researchers.
  • NC Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The mission of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is to conserve animals, plants, habitats, and other natural components of the Piedmont Region of the eastern United States through observation, scientific study, and education for students of all ages…
  • NR Lake Conestee Nature Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Lake Conestee Nature Park is the wintering grounds of the largest reported population of Rusty Blackbirds in South Carolina. Between 700 and 1000 individuals have been reported. It consists of 400 acres of beautiful natural habitat just 6 miles from downtown Greenville, SC. The park contains both upland hardwood and evergreen forest, successional shrub cover, meadows, extensive wetlands, a lake, oxbow sloughs and 2 miles of the Reedy River and associated riparian bottomland forests Current facilities include nearly 10 miles of trails (40% paved, wheel-chair accessible, with remainder natural surface), five trailheads with public parking, over 2,000 linear feet (0.35 miles) of boardwalk in the wetland areas, and two large wetland/wildlife observation decks with interpretive signs. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk and there is no charge for entry.
  • NR Santee Costal Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Santee Coastal Reserve is a great birding spot, mostly because it has three main habitats—old growth longleaf pine forest, freshwater swamp, and fresh or brackish marshland. The pine forest along the entrance road has all of the specialty species of longleaf pine forests. Many birders have gotten their lifer Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and Bachman's Sparrows along this drive. From the parking area you have a choice of hiking into a freshwater swamp (with a good boardwalk) to a large heron rookery, or hiking out into the extensive marshlands to look for ducks, rails, shorebirds, and other wetlands species. Many rarities have been found at Santee Coastal, including Ruff, Black Rail, Yellow Rail, and American Avocet.
  • NWR ACE Basin

    WebpageSatellite View
    The ACE (for the rivers: Ashepoo, Combahee, Edisto) Basin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located in Charleston County, ~25 miles south of Charleston. The refuge is ~ 11,000 acres. The Edisto Unit, which includes The Grove and Jehossee Island, totals 6500 acres. The ACE Basin Watershed represents one of the largest undeveloped wetland ecosystems on the Atlantic Coast. Much of the Refuge is old rice impoundments comprised of typical fresh water marsh plants. The major cover types are, in decending order of prevalence: Mixed Hardwood/Pine, Marsh, Wetlands Management Units, Early Successional Field/Pasture, Longleaf Pine, and Bottomland Hardwood Forest. The Edisto Unit of the ACE Basin NWR supports more than 900 foraging Wood Storks during June-August. Nesting sites for Bald Eagles, Barn Owls and Red-headed Woodpeckers, Black Rails, Mottled Ducks and Painted Buntings are found.Swallow-tailed Kites and Black Ducks use the Refuge during part of the year. Wetlands provide nesting and/or feeding sites for thousands of shorebirds, including Black-necked Stilts, Black-bellied and Semi-palmated Plovers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, all three "peeps," Dunlins, Short and Long-billed Dowitchers.
  • NWR Cape Romain

    WebpageSatellite View
    Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1932. Since that time, in support of wildlife's battle for survival and the fight against constantly disappearing habitat. wildlife managers and biologists have employed a number of wildlife management techniques…
  • NWR Carolina Sandhills

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge contains 46,000 acres of land and water in northeastern South Carolina. The primary species is the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. The large stands of mature longleaf pine timber are home to 500 to 700 Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in scattered breeding colonies. Bachman's sparrow is also present in good numbers, but there are currently no hard figures on the size of this population. Carolina Sandhills is an important area for the research conducted on this endangered woodpecker.
  • NWR Waccamaw

    WebpageSatellite View
    Presently Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge encompasses nearly 29,000 acres. In 2008 Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge opened the newly constructed Cox Ferry Lake Recreation Area and has also opened a new state-of-the-art Visitor and Environmental Education Center on Highway 701 north of Georgetown.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • ABA Birding News

    Most recent postings from the Carolinias
  • CarolinaBirds

    Birds and Birding in the Carolinas
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Coastal Expeditions Bulls Island

    Birding in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge
Trip Reports
  • 2016 [05 May] - Bruce Wedderburn - Southeast USA

    This was a two-month trip to southeast USA for Yvonne and myself, from late March through to late May, with a focus on the Spring migration, in particular the highly varied and colourful warblers. The trip commenced in Dallas in early Spring and involved touring through Texas along the Mexican border, following the Gulf of Mexico around to Florida as far south as Key West, then heading north up the east coast of the USA, then inland to the Appalachian Ranges in North Carolina, before heading west for our return trip to Dallas. Qantas has direct flights from Sydney to Dallas which avoids flying on any internal flights within the USA.
Places to Stay
  • Inn at Middleton Place

    Middleton Place, an 18th century rice plantation and the home of a distinguished Colonial family, is an area of great natural beauty with a delicate ecosystem flourishing where rice culture once thrived…
Other Links
  • Birding South CarolinaSouth Carolina Birding Trails and Maps

    Find the top rated birding trails in South Carolina, whether you're looking for an easy short birding trail or a long birding trail, you'll find what you're looking for. Click on a birding trail below to find trail descriptions, trail maps, photos, and reviews.
  • International Center for Birds of Prey

    The International Center for Birds of Prey (ICBP) is a non-profit educational, scientific and conservation organization located near Charleston, South Carolina.
  • J Drew Lanham

    WANT TO HEAR MORE? CONTACT MEI am a wondering wander in love with nature and all the sensuality that falls softly in raindrops, rises riotously with each dawn chorus and whispers goodnight with Whip-poor-wills at dusk. I was born in 1965 and raised in the depths of the Sumter National Forest in a district called the Long Cane. Steven’s and Cheve’s Creeks feed into the Savannah River not far from the rolling piedmont landscape and the small family farm in Edgefield, South Carolina that nurtured me. I count three degrees from Clemson University as structured steps to learning and self-awareness. Honored as a Distinguished Alumni Professor and Alumni Master Teacher, my 20 years as faculty includes courses, research and outreach in woodland ecology, conservation biology, forest biodiversity, wildlife policy and conservation ornithology and more than forty graduate students mentored.
  • South Carolina Breeding Bird Atlas

    Although South Carolina has a long history of ornithological survey, dating back to the colonial era, much of this work was concentrated in the coastal zone and sporadic in nature. Large portions of South Carolina, especially the interior of the state, have never had an adequate natural history survey.
  • Cathy Miller - Pluff Mud Perspecitves

    Born and raised in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, I am a nature lover, bird watcher, unabashed tree hugger and aspiring-to-improve photographer. In my adult life, I have traveled and/or lived in other areas of the US, Europe and even the Middle East. But with original pluff mud between my toes from treks through the marsh behind my childhood home, I have not resisted returning twice to my terre natale -- the Lowcountry -- to make my home.
  • David C McLean - Birding Bulls

    Birding observations from the ongoing USF&WS Cape Romain NWR Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey, from Christmas and Spring Bird Counts, and from other surveys and outings.

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