The Complete Guide to Birdwatching on Kiawah Island
Where to Spot the Majestic Birds of South Carolina
With its abundant marshlands, ponds, and lagoons, the South Carolina Lowcountry is home to a variety of bird species. In fact, the lush dunes and beaches of Kiawah Island boast over 300 species of both migratory and non-migratory birds. To ensure that the natural habitats of these species remain intact, Island residents created the Kiawah Island Natural Habitat Conservancy to preserve the environment. The extraordinary care taken to protect the natural habitats has made Kiawah Island a wildlife sanctuary.
Continue reading to discover the birds of South Carolina you will find on the Island, as well as where to view these majestic creatures.
10 Bird Species Found on Kiawah Island
1. Great Blue Heron
Frequently seen poised along Kiawah Island’s marshes, ponds, and vast shoreline, the Great Blue Heron is truly a sight to behold. Known for its tall stature and grayish-blue coloring, this species of heron is the largest in North America.
2. Brown Pelican
Large in stature, Brown Pelicans are commonly seen flying above the shoreline or perched on a marina dock. These birds feed by diving into the water and using their long bills to capture fish.
3. Carolina Chickadee
One of the most beloved birds of South Carolina, the Carolina Chickadee is a tiny songbird that is commonly seen perched in the trees of Kiawah’s maritime forest.
4. Great Egret
Another long-legged bird, the Great Egret wades in the shallow waters of the marsh awaiting fish and amphibians to prey on. Their all-white coloring and bright bills make them easy to spot against the dark hues of their environment.
5. Great Horned Owl
Recognized by their yellow eyes and large ear tufts, the Great Horned Owl is an inhabitant of Kiawah Island’s maritime forest. Keep in mind this species is nocturnal, so you will have the best luck spotting one during dusk or dawn.
6. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
The Ruby-throated hummingbird is a striking species that can be found along the outskirts of the maritime forest as well as in parks and residents’ backyards. With its bright red throat and emerald green wings, this is truly one of the most beautiful birds of South Carolina.
7. Hooded Merganser
Kiawah Island’s freshwater ponds are home to Hooded Mersangers — the most commonly found duck on the Island. This species can be identified by their black and white color pattern as well as their unique fan-like crowns.
8. Black Skimmer
Identified by its striking red bill that contrasts against its black and white coloring, the Black Skimmer is fairly common around the Island’s beaches, ponds, and lagoons. This species can often be seen flying just above the surface of the water skimming for fish to feed on.
9. Belted Kingfisher
The Belted Kingfisher is a blueish-gray bird with a shaggy crown. This species can be identified by its loud call as it flies along the edge of the Kiawah River.
10. Bald Eagle
Last but certainly not least, the majestic Bald Eagle can be found migrating to South Carolina in the winter. Since Bald Eagles primarily eat fish, they can be seen around the Island’s marshes, rivers, and along the coast.
To learn more about the species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish that call Kiawah Island home, check out our Wildlife Lookbook.
The Best Birdwatching Spots on Kiawah Island
1. Kiawah’s Beach
Head down to Kiawah Island’s 10-mile stretch of pristine beach to see a wide variety of bird species. Bring a beach chair, sink your toes in the sand, and keep your eyes peeled on the shoreline. You may even get to witness a Great Blue Heron or Brown Pelican diving head-first into the ocean’s surface to grab a bite to eat.
2. The Kiawah River
Over 20 miles of maritime forest, shoreline, and marsh line the Kiawah River. As a diverse ecosystem, the river is home to many unique birds of South Carolina, making it an ideal spot for birding.
3. Night Heron Park
Located in the East Beach community, Night Heron Park comprises 21 acres of green space, walking paths, and winding lagoons. Here, you will find many different species of birds and other native wildlife. Plus, the Kiawah Island Nature Center is located in Night Heron Park, so you can learn more about the reptiles, birds, mammals, ocean life, and plants that can be found on the Island.
4. Bass Pond
Kiawah Island is speckled with a variety of freshwater and brackish ponds. For the best birdwatching, head to Bass Pond, located in the Vanderhorst community, since it is one of the largest and most lively ponds on the Island. At this location, you will have a good chance of spotting different species of birds feeding on fish.
5. Cassique Boathouse & Kayak Dock
Exclusive to Kiawah Island Club Members, the Cassique Boathouse and Kayak Dock provide access to the Island’s winding rivers, marshes, and creeks. For a unique experience, birdwatch from a kayak or paddleboard to get a closer look at the various species of shorebirds. Plus, you may even spot bottlenose dolphins as well while you’re out on the water.
Birdwatching Tips and Tricks for Beginners
Birdwatching is an enjoyable pastime that people of all ages can partake in. The following tips will help you get started if you’re new to birdwatching.
1. Stay Silent and Be Still
Birds are easily scared off by sudden movements and loud noises. In order to get close to the bird and observe its behaviors, be sure to stay as quiet as possible and move slowly. If you need to communicate with your fellow birdwatcher, do so in a quiet whisper or use slow hand motions.
2. Purchase Binoculars
In order to more closely see and identify birds, we recommend purchasing binoculars. Choose a quality pair that are comfortable and can be easily transported as you explore the Island.
3. Be Patient
Last but not least, the secret to successful bird watching is patience. Although it may take time for a bird to cross your path, focus on spending time enjoying nature and discovering the beauty of Kiawah Island.
See the Beauty of Kiawah Island Wildlife
Interested in seeing these majestic birds of South Carolina for yourself? We invite you to visit the Island to discover the native wildlife that calls Kiawah home.
Click the button below to begin planning your visit.