South Carolina Birds

Bordered with Atlantic Ocean makes South Caroline a great place for shorebirds, seabirds, and migrants. According to the local bird record committee, South Carolina birds include 424 species including year-round residents and transients that spread from the coast to the mountains.

The Carolina wren has been designated as South Carolina’s state bird and birdwatchers can easily find them throughout the state. Aside from Carolina wren, there are many other birds to enjoy such as flamingoes, grebes, plovers, terns, and many more.

South Carolina Birds: Snow Goose

south carolina birds

Birders can easily identify snow goose (Anser caerulescens) form either white or dark plumage. This species consists of white morph and blue morph which can be distinguish from their plumage. White morph has white plumage with black tail while the blue morph has dark plumage with white head.

During breeding season that ranges from May to mid-August, snow goose especially the females return to the place they hatched. They nest in colonies and females choose the site in high ground. Outside the breeding season, these geese spend time on migration.

The snow goose can be found in farmland, prairies, coastal plain, and agricultural fields. Few of them are found in marshes where they can dig for food. The geese mainly feed on aquatic vegetation and invertebrates. During winter, they eat left-over grain.

Ring-Necked Duck

south carolina birds

Another waterfowl to find in South Carolina is the ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris). This one of South Carolina birds is native to North America but they are long-distance migratory. These ducks winter in southern regions with warmer climate and return to breed.

The duck is characterized by a gray bill surrounded by two white rings. It also has black plumage with white-lined wings. Yellow eyes and white breast also help birdwatchers recognize this waterfowl. Females are slightly smaller than the males.

The ring-necked ducks are primarily omnivores. They forage in fond and dive for aquatic vegetation, especially when they are mature. Animal matters such as leeches, midges, earthworms, and insects are also included into the list.

American Flamingo

south carolina birds

The local bird committee of South Carolina has recorded American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) as one of yearly visitors. This large bird can be identified from their reddish-pink plumage and sharp black, downward-hooked bill. It contrasts the chalk-white upper bill with pink patches.

The American flamingo has long legs. These legs help them obtain food from the bottom of the water by wading. Their beaks have evolved, featuring marginal lamellae to filter their food from water. The diet includes fish and aquatic invertebrates.

These South Carolina birds are short-distance migratory and they will migrate for food, especially when their habitat is disturbed. They will abandon the habitat and look for other food source. However, flamingoes have the ability to fly for a certain period without eating.

Black-Necked Grebe

south carolina birds

Also known as eared grebe, the black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) is a distinctive water bird with unique plumage. During the breeding season, these grebes have breeding plumage with ochre color that extends behind the eyes. They also feature black or blackish brown upper parts.

The water birds have distinct foraging techniques for different preys. Insects, which become their main diet, are obtained on the water surface of during flight. Occasionally, these birds dive for tadpoles, crustaceans, frogs, and even fish. These birds also feed on brine shrimp.

During migration, the black-necked grebe can travel up to 6,000 kilometers. They generally prefer walking than flying and become flightless for around to months and molting. During this period, they feed and double their weight.

Carolina Wren

south carolina birds

Designated as the state bird of South Carolina, the Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is a common species to find across the state. The small bird prefers dense forest as well as suburban areas and farm edges as their habitats.

The wren can be identified from chestnut breast and brown upper parts. They also feature richer brown wings with white dots and white streak that extends from eyes. In August and September, the plumage of post-juvenile bird molts and changes into darker color.

Birdwatchers can easily find these South Carolina birds across the state. Their natural habitat is woodlands but they also prefer swamps, farmland, and suburban yard. They forage in the shrubs and trees that provide abundant. The diets include:

  • Bugs
  • Grasshoppers
  • Beetles
  • Ants
  • Bees

Common Nighthawk

south carolina birds

From the nightjar family, common nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) can be found in South Caroline. This nocturnal bird can be recognized from its distinctive calls, allowing birders to find them by following the call. They are often found perching on branches, posts, or on the ground.

In flight, the common nighthawks show their fantastic white bars on their wings. They are excellent in camouflage, thanks to white barred upper parts and patches that make them hard to identify, especially at night.

The nighthawks feed mainly on insects, especially crepuscular. The bird has sharp vision, which becomes their main sense to detect preys. In September, the post-juvenile nighthawks’ plumage molts and change into adult plumage.

Virginia Rail

south carolina birds

The Virginia rail (Rallus limicola) is a common yet secretive rail species. Despite hunting and continuous loss of habitat, these rails remain abundant in North America and northern part of the United States. Due to their secretive nature, birdwatchers hear their calls more than seeing their appearance.

These water birds can be identified from their brown underparts and darker brown upper parts. They also have white streaks on wings as well as pointed, reddish orange bills. Their dark grey cheeks help birders distinguish this rail species.

The Virginia rails prefers brackish marshes and freshwater. But occasionally they visit salt marshes, especially during the winter. Large populations of these South Carolina birds migrate to warmer climate to spend their winter and return to their breeding range when the season comes.

South Carolina Birds: American Golden Plover

south carolina birds

Black body and white mottles on the upper parts are the features to identify the American golden plover (Pluvialis dominica). The bird receives its name from gold spots on the back that distinguish this plover from other species. Additionally, it has white patches on head and napes.

The American golden plover breeds in Arctic tundra and they prefer open area to nest. They are long-distance migratory as they can reach up to 40 thousand kilometers. During the travel, they stop to feed and drink over open ocean.

These birds forage on beaches, fields, coastal plain for food. Their main diets are insects and crustaceans. During breeding season, the birds use scrape nests and add some leaves and grasses to build a breeding ground. This plover is territorial and it aggressively defends the territory.

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White-Rumped Sandpiper

south carolina birds

White-rumped sandpiper has been recorded as one of South Carolina birds. This small shorebird breeds in Canada’s northern tundra and Alaska and travels to the south during winter. Birdwatchers can enjoy these birds during spring and fall as rarely see them during summer as they breed in northern regions.

The sandpiper has thin, dark beak and legs. It also has dull-grey upper part with white eye stripe. The white underpart makes allows birdwatchers to see their white plumage during flight. During winter, the plumage is distinct so they are rather hard to identify.

These birds inhabit vegetated tundra. When breeding season comes, these birds inhabit marshy arctic tundra and nest. During migration, they prefer wetlands such as estuaries, marshes, and lagoons. In those places, they can find abundant mollusks, larval insects and crustaceans.

Black Tern

south carolina birds

The black tern (Chlidonias niger) is a common small tern that elongates the list of birds in South Carolina. During flight, birders can identify the black tern from their white underparts and inner wings. But these shorebirds have grayish-black plumage with darker head and pointed bills.

This tern species nests on floating material in bodies of water or on the ground. They mainly feed on fish and insects. Unlike sterna terns, these birds prefer catching them while flying instead of diving for fish. They also pick them up near the bodies of water.

These South Carolina birds breed in freshwater marshes. The females can lay up to 4 eggs and raise the young. Those live in North America migrates to the coastal plains in northern South America.

South Carolina Birds: Wood Stork

south carolina birds

The large and wall wood stork (Mycteria Americana) is another wading bird recorded by the local committee. It features white body and bald, blackish head and distinctive curved bill. During flight, the birders can notice their black flight plumage as well as tail that contrasts the body and broad wings.

These birds forage in shallow bodies of water for fish. These specialized feeder has unique feeding strategy, allowing them to snap the fish in lightning speed. They open the bill and sweep through the water. When fish comes, the bill snaps fast.

The wood stork is listed as endangered species and the population has shifted northward. Now they prefer coastal locations across the state, with the largest population is found in the ACE basin. The birds nest in the top of the tree.

Swallow-Tailed Kite

south carolina birds

Local birders can enjoy the beauty of the swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus). This raptor bird can be recognized from their black-white plumage and long-forked tail as well as slender wings. These South Carolina birds are local residents and they breed in the state.

The swallow-tailed kite inhabits river swamps. During breeding season, the birds make pairs and nest on the top of pine trees. They often forage in small groups and birders can easily identify the flock from their distinctive bodily features.

Dragonflies and other winged insects are the main diets of these kites. They occasionally eat small snakes and lizard which are snatched during their flight. Summer is the best time to watch these birds and the favorite locations include Santee Delta Wildlife and Francis Marion National Forest.

South Carolina Birds: Rock Cockaded Woodpecker

south carolina birds

Listed as endangered species, the red-cockaded woodpecker (Dryobates borealis) intrigues local birders and visitors. This woodpecker has distinctive plumage with black and white pattern and black cap. It also has white check patches and long tails that help birders identify the species.

The rock-cockaded woodpecker is a year-round resident. It inhabits pinewood in the southern part of the state and they form a small clans or groups. Aside from their distinctive appearance, birders can recognize their presence through their unique calling.

These woodpeckers make holes in live pines, especially those infected with red-heart disease. These trees typically have white coating and oozing sap. The sap helps deter predators, including snakes and make a good place for the bird to nest.

Acadian Flycatcher

south carolina birds

Among other South Carolina birds, the Acadian flycatcher (Empidonax virescens) looks attractive with the combination of olive-green upper part and olive-gray underpart. The small flycatcher also has pale eye rings and white wingbars.

Birders can find the Acadian flycatcher in swamplands, damp woods, and river forests throughout the state. They usually nest in rhododendron or iron wood in highlands. However, largest population is found in coastal plains, particularly in the hardwood swamps.

During breeding season, the female builds nest and lays about three eggs. The nest is poorly made of local material. The birds arrive in South Carolina from April to October.

South Carolina Birds: Swainson’s Warbler

south carolina birds

The swainson’s warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii) is a warbler species with somber plumage. This small bird has olive-brown upper part with darker plumage on the head. It also has distinctive light eyebrow, though it is rather hard to identify in the nature.

The migratory bird presents in two areas in South Carolina, including mountain forests and coastal plain swamps. It nests in rhododendron thickets and cane breaks. In their habitats, these warblers are more often heard than seen. They have distinctive calls with slurred whistles in a long series.

These warblers mainly feed on insects and they forage for food. Their long bill helps sift through the debris and leaves, allowing them to find the insects easily. When breeding season comes, the female warblers lay up to four eggs.

South Carolina birds vary widely, ranging from raptor to waterfowls. The local committee has recorded and categorized each species into different tags to help identification. Birdwatchers need to wait for the right time to observe the bird as well as find the right place.

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