Image to the left of a great egret taken from the South Carolina Parks website
From woodlands to swamps and forests to rivers and coastal environments, South Carolina provides an ideal habitat for more than 375 different bird species, making it a must-visit destination for bird lovers around the world!
Some of the best places in the state to witness bird species (many of which are endemic to North America) include the Congaree Swamp National Park, Huntington Beach State Park, and Caesars Head.
Below are some of the best spots for bird viewing in South Carolina:
Huntington Beach State Park: Arguably South Carolina’s BEST place to view birds is at Huntington Beach State Park, which is situated near Murrells Inlet—just a 1.5 hour drive (approximately 75 miles) from downtown Charleston. Since Huntington Park is located on the coast with natural marsh, maritime forest, and saltwater lagoon habitats, many coastal bird species can be spotted during your visit, including painted buntings, egrets, oystercatchers, wood storks, herons, orioles, tanagers, and terns!
Image above of a Sanderling taken from the South Carolina Parks website
Congaree Swamp National Park: Situated further inland in South Carolina (slightly southeast of Columbia) is the Congaree Swamp National Monument, which is home to dense floodplain forests and swamps that attract a different type of bird than the coastal regions of South Carolina. Here, visitors can witness over 170 different types of bird, including woodpeckers, warblers, herons, egrets, hawks, ducks, owls, flycatchers, wrens, and more.
Image above of a Barred Owl taken from the National Parks Service website
Caesers Head State Park: A beautiful state park, situated in the sprawling Blue Ridge Escarpment at the northwestern portion of South Carolina, Caesers Head State Park is every hiking-, birding-, and nature-lover’s dream. And now is the perfect time to visit.
During the fall, visitors can witness a variety of hawk species—including the sharp-shinned hawk and Cooper’s Hawk—as well as vultures, the Mississippi Kite, osprey, bald eagle, falcons, and much more.
Image above of Caesars Head State Park taken from the South Carolina Parks website
Below are a few of our favorite South Carolina bird species:
Red-cockaded woodpecker: This fascinating woodpecker species is one of only two species of woodpecker that is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Their numbers began to dwindle in the 70s due to deforestation of pine forests, but today, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is working hard to recover the red-cockaded woodpecker numbers.
Image above taken from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website
Wood Duck: Aptly named for its beautiful appearance, the wood duck’s species name, sponsa, translates to mean “bride.” The male wood duck has a green, purple, and blue-crested head with an orange bill, white neck, and dark brown chest. These ducks can be found year-round in South Carolina’s swamps, marshes, and ponds.
Painted bunting: A truly stunning bird, the painted bunting is one of the most colorful birds found in South Carolina with a royal blue head, ruby red chest, and black and lime green back. It is also celebrated for having one of the prettiest voices out of all the songbirds in the region. Unfortunately, these vibrant birds are traveling to the warm weather in Florida now, so you probably won’t see them until April when the spring approaches.
Carolina Wren: As the official state bird, the Carolina wren can be frequently spotted within South Carolina’s forest and swamps, as well as some urban areas. These small, vocal birds have an extremely loud song for their size! It’s also important to note that these birds live in monogamous pairs and can be found nesting in branches, tree holes, stumps, and manmade structures.
Image above of a Carolina wren taken from animals.nationalgeographic.com
Below are some helpful birding resources and paraphernalia for your birding adventures in South Carolina:
Many coastal bird species can also be witnessed on the Charleston harbor, including pelicans, shorebirds, gulls, and terns. So, if you’re looking to get out on the water and witness some of these birds from the comfort of a boat, hop aboard the Charleston Harbor Tours‘ 90-minute historic boat tour. Click here for ticket details and schedules.