Hilton Head Island is a natural stopover for our hemisphere’s migrating birds and a comfortable, bountiful home for hundreds more bird species. The Hilton Head Audubon Society counted 156 species during its annual Christmas bird count, which was the most species ever. Stop into Hilton Head Outfitters and we can give you some pointers of where to look and provide some unbridled enthusiasm about the natural wonders on Hilton Head Island.
Pull out the binoculars and feast your eyes on a flying and wading avian parade.
Where to go on land:
At Palmetto Dunes’ George Fazio golf course, we have a bird rookery, which is a local nesting area for anhingas, egrets, cormorants and ospreys. The rookery sits in the middle of a pond and is only available viewable during non-golfing hours
The State of South Carolina has designated two “Important Birding Areas” on the island: the appropriately named Ibis Pond in the Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge between the two bridges leading to Hilton Head Island and Lake Mary in the 605-acre Sea Pines Forest Preserve. Both have densely populated rookeries in the spring. It’s truly amazing to see trees festooned with a white sea of feathers. Another good place to spot birds is the 50-acre Audubon Newhall Preserve on Palmetto Bay Road. It has a nice, well-marked 2-mile walking trail.
Where to go on water:
Rent a canoe or kayaks from us and we can guarantee you’ll soon run out of fingers and toes for your bird count as you paddle around our 11-mile saltwater lagoon system.
You can also try our Skimmer Nature Charters, which take you through the backwaters and salt marshes of Hilton Head led by Captain Howard Costa. On this personally guided tour, you should truly get up close and personal with more than a few feathered friends.
You can also try The Outback charter, where we take you on a boat tour of Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge and then give you two hours to kayak the creeks on your own.
When to go
Picking the best time to see birds depends on the species. Early morning is the best time to listen for bird songs because sound carries further and they aren’t competing with ambient noise. Some birds sun themselves in the afternoon to control feather mites. Others appear at bird baths in the heat of the day to cool off. It’s easiest to see shore birds at low tide when they forage along the water’s edge. Birds like eagles and ospreys are often seen soaring with the help of afternoon thermals.
What you’ll see
Great blue herons, white egrets, ibis, spooky looking anhingas (often seen stretching out their wings to dry), wood storks, osprey, bald eagles, Eastern bluebirds, catbirds, pine warblers, painted buntings, killdeer, pelicans and, of course, the state bird, the Carolina wren.
Grab your binoculars, open your ears and head out to see some of the best birding around here on beautiful Hilton Head Island.