Tanagers, egrets, and pelicans, oh my!

By Meghan Overdeep
July 23, 2020
Advertisement

As Americans’ appreciation for the outside world continues to grow amid the isolation and uncertainty of the coronavirus, so does interest in the age-old hobby of birdwatching.

Nationwide, downloads of bird identification apps have soared, and sales of bird feeders, nesting boxes, and birdseed have spiked. But in South Carolina, the birding trend is nothing new.

With more than 430 species of birds and a diverse array of habitats, the Palmetto State has long been legendary for its birdwatching hot spots. Plus, it’s the perfect size for hitting multiple destinations in a single weekend.

Whether you’re a seasoned birder or your interest is just beginning to take flight, here are South Carolina’s can’t-miss spots for birdwatching.

Huntington Beach State Park, Georgetown County: With more than 300 species sighted in the park's 2,500 coastal acres, this renowned state park is considered by many to be the best birding spot on the East Coast. Huntington Beach is particularly known for migratory birds in search of the warmer waters of South Carolina. Tanagers, orioles, pelicans, oystercatchers, wood storks, and white egrets all call this expansive park home.

Lake Murray, Midlands: This 50,000-acre man-made lake comes to life each summer as the Purple Martins come to roost.  It is estimated that more than one million of these beautiful swallows make their summer homes on Bomb Island, the largest Purple Martin sanctuary in North America, which is located in the middle of the lake.

Caw Caw Interpretive Center, Ravenel: Just outside Charleston, more than 250 species of birds have been identified on this wildlife preserve’s 654 acres, including rare Prothonotary warblers, swallow-tailed kites, and indigo buntings.

Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Awendaw: This coastal refuge hosts 300 migratory and resident bird species, including oystercatchers, wood storks, peregrine falcons and rare birds like the long-billed curlew. You can find out exactly what birds are being seen at the refuge using the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird Trail Tracker.

Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston: The 60-acre cypress and tupelo swamp features a network of boardwalks, bridges, and dykes where visitors can observe hundreds of great egrets, snowy egrets, great blue herons, little blue herons, and other waterfowl nesting each year.