Kiawah Island is home to more than 200 species of birds, ranging in size from the tiny ruby-throated hummingbird all the way up to the bald eagle. For additional details on some of our more prominent species see below.
Click here to download the bird checklist for Kiawah.
Males are solid black with a yellow-orange knob at the base of bill. Females are brownish with a light colored cheek patch.
Migratory, common in winter. Ocean, typically several hundred yards out.
Flocks of several thousand are seen offshore in winter. A strong pair of binoculars or scope is required to see them.
Medium-sized duck. Males have purplish-black/green head and whitish-gray back. Females are brown with white face patch. Blue bill.
Migratory, common in winter. Large ponds (Ibis, Willet and Bass) and ocean.
Often seen in large flocks diving for submerged vegetation, invertebrates, and mollusks. Also called “bluebills.”
Medium, stocky shorebird. Grayish-brown in winter, distinctive rusty color in spring/summer. Black bill.
Migratory, common in winter and spring. Beach, especially on east and west ends.
Threatened. In spring, thousands stage on Kiawah before migrating north to breed.
Large shorebird. Brown above, white below with a black head. Long, bright orange bill and eye-ring.
Migratory, breeder, fairly common year-round. Beach, especially on east and west ends, river, and creeks.
Specialized in feeding on bivalves. Uses needlelike bill to sever the strong muscle that holds the shell closed.
Medium-sized seabird. Black above, white below. Large bill is black with red base.
Migratory, fairly common year-round. Beach, ponds, and tidal creeks.
Feeds primarily at dusk or dawn (also at night) by skimming the surface of water with an open bill.
Small, stocky shorebird. Head and chest patterned black and white, reddish above and white below. Orange legs. Short, pointed bill.
Migratory, present year-round but common in winter. Beach, mudflats, and lagoons.
Often seen turning over beach debris in search of food.
Medium-sized shorebird. Grayish above, whitish below turning a striking black and white in the spring. In flight, black “armpits” distinctive.
Migratory, common in fall, winter, and spring. Beach, lagoons, mudflats, and driving range at the Ocean Course.
A stalking predator adapted to feed on a variety of prey items.
Small shorebird. Brownish above, white below with a dark breast band across chest. Large, thick, black bill. Flesh-colored legs.
Migratory, breeder, common in spring, summer, and fall. Rare in winter. Beach, mudflats, marsh, and lagoons.
Specializes in feeding on fiddler crabs.
Small shorebird. Pale gray above, white below with a narrow, pale band across chest that turns blackish in spring. Orange legs. Black bill turns orange in spring.
Migratory, fairly common in fall, winter, and spring. Beach, lagoons, and mudflats.
Endangered. Picks invertebrates from surface of sand.
Small shorebird. Dark brown above, white below with a single dark breast band. Orange bill with dark tip and orange legs.
Migratory, present year-round but common in winter. Beach, lagoons, and mudflats.
Forages on wet sand by picking invertebrates from the surface.
Large shorebird. Brownish overall, mottled with black. Long, pinkish, upturned bill. In flight, shows rich cinnamon under wings.
Migratory, present year-round, most often seen in winter. Beach, lagoons, and mudflats.
Uses long bill to probe mud or sand for invertebrates.
Medium-sized shorebird. Long black bill with a slight droop. Pale-gray above, whitish below during winter. Upperparts reddish with a black belly in spring. Black legs.
Migratory, common in fall, winter, and spring. Beach, lagoons, and mudflats.
Often seen in large flocks roosting on beach during winter.
Small duck with a spatula-shaped bill. Overall brown in color. Males have a white crescent-shaped patch at the base of bill. Light-blue shoulder patches visible in flight.
Migratory, uncommon. Fall, winter, and spring. Ponds, creeks, river, and lagoons.
Dabbles at the surface of the water in search of food.
Small, chunky diving duck with a long, stiff tail that is often cocked up at an angle. Overall brownish in color with pale colored cheek patches.
Migratory, fairly common in winter and spring. Ponds, river, and ocean.
Commonly seen in Ibis and Willet ponds. Rarely flies from danger, usually dives or swims away.
Small diving duck with bluish bill. Males are dark above, white below with a large, white patch on the back of head. Females are dark above, gray below with a white spot on the side of the head.
Migratory, fairly common in winter and spring. Large ponds, creeks, river, lagoons, and ocean.
Eats clams and other mollusks.
Medium-sized diving duck with a long, thin bill and a fan-like crown. Males are boldly patterned in black, white, and brown. Females are predominately brown.
Migratory, common in winter and spring. Creeks, river, and ponds.
The most abundant duck on Kiawah’s ponds. Eats fish.
Small, duck-like water bird. Overall brownish in color with dull-colored bill. In summer, the bill is encircled by a dark ring.
Migratory, common in fall, winter, and spring. Ponds and marsh.
When threatened, they can sink into the water without making a ripple.
Large, water bird with long neck and sharp, needle-like bill. Males are black with whitish back. Females and immatures have brown necks and breast.
Migratory, breeder, uncommon year-round. Ponds.
Also called “snakebird” because only its head and neck are visible when swimming.
Large, duck-like water bird with an orange, hooked bill. Adults appear black overall. Immatures are brownish with a pale breast and neck.
Migratory, common in fall, winter, and spring. Ponds and ocean.
Eats primarily fish, often works together to “herd” fish against shorelines.
Brownish-gray in color with dark gray cheek patches and contrasting dark and light stripes on flanks and belly. Long, orange bill.
Resident, breeder, common year-round. Marsh and ponds.
Clapper Rails inhabit dense marshes and are more often heard than seen. Distinctive long, extended clattering call.
Dark overall with a thin white line along the side. In summer, the bill turns bright red with a yellow tip.
Migratory, breeder, common year-round. Ponds and marsh.
Often seen along densely vegetated shorelines but will forage in open water by picking food from the surface.
Blue above, white below with a blue breast band. Head is blue with a shaggy crest. Females have a rusty-colored belly band.
Migratory, common in fall, winter, and spring. Ponds and tidal creeks.
Forages by hovering and plunging head first into water after fish.
Medium-sized wading bird. Adults are entirely white. Immatures are brownish. Long, pink, down-curved bill. Pinkish legs.
Migratory, uncommon year-round. Marsh and ponds.
Usually seen in large flocks. Feeds by probing or picking food from grass or shallow water. Glossy Ibis are also present on Kiawah but are dark, reddish-black in color.
Large wading bird. All white with black along the sides. Head unfeathered, wrinkled with a heavy bill.
Migratory, uncommon year-round. Ponds and marsh.
State endangered. Forages in small isolated pools by moving a partially opened bill back and forth in search of fish.
Large-headed, chunky songbird. Grayish above, white below with a black mask, wings, and tail.
Resident, breeder, uncommon year-round. Shrubland, dunes and Ocean Course driving range.
Because it lacks strong talons, it impales prey on sharp objects, such as thorns, before eating it.
Large, nocturnal nightjar. Cryptically-colored, brown overall.
Migratory, breeder, uncommon in spring, summer, and fall. Forested areas and shrubland.
Recognized by loud, insistent call of the bird’s name: “Chuck wills WI-dow” given at night.
Medium-sized, spot -breasted songbird. Brownish above, whitish below with bold dark spots. Tail deep rust color.
Migratory, uncommon in winter, fall, and spring. Forested areas and shrubland.
Habitually jerks its tail and flicks its wings.
Fairly large warbler. Greenish-yellow above, yellowish below. Dark wings with two white wing bars.
Resident, breeder, uncommon year-round. Forested areas, typically associated with pine trees.
Usually found high in the tops of pine trees in summer. May visit bird feeders during the winter.
Small, slender sparrow. In winter, brownish above, grayish below with some reddish highlights in crown. In summer, reddish above, clean gray
below with a bright chestnut cap.
Migratory, uncommon in winter, fall, and spring. Open forests and golf courses.
Commonly seen at feeders.
Iridescent blue-green above, pure white below. Tail square with an indistinct notch.
Migratory, common in winter, fall, and spring. Ponds, beach, and dunes.
Commonly seen over the dunes and beach in huge flocks numbering in the thousands during the winter.
Small, aerial songbird with a long, forked tail. Iridescent blue above, orange below with a dark-orange throat.
Migratory, breeder, common in summer, spring, and fall. Ponds, beach, golf courses.
Nests under bridges and docks at some of the ponds on Kiawah, including Bass Pond.
Medium-sized blackbird. Males are black with bright orange and yellow shoulder patches. Females are brownish-gray and heavily streaked.
Migratory, breeder, common year-round. Shrubland, marsh, ponds, and dunes.
Male’s “conk-la-ree” call is very commonly heard in summer near marsh.
Tiny with a long, narrow bill. Greenish above, white below. Males have a dark chin that glows red in sunlight.
Migratory, breeder, uncommon in summer, spring, and fall. Rare in winter. Forested areas and shrubland.
Only hummingbird commonly found in the East. Drinks nectar from flowers. Attracted to sugar-water feeders.
Medium-sized woodpecker. Black back with white barring. Underparts pale brown. Red crown on male extends from the bill to the back of head. In females the red is limited to the back of the head.
Resident, breeder, common year-round. Forested areas and shrubland.
Will come to bird feeders and eat seeds and suet.
Large, crested woodpecker. Black overall with white stripes on the side of head and neck. Bright red crown. In flight, shows a contrasting black and white pattern.
Resident, breeder, uncommon year-round. Forested areas.
Often heard making loud drumming noises on trees or even homes.
A noisy, medium-sized songbird with a large head and bill. Brownish-red above, yellowish below.
Migratory, breeder, common in spring, summer, and fall. Forested areas and shrubland.
Aggressively pursues flying insects often catching them in mid-air. Nests in cavities of dead/dying trees.
Both species are black with unfeathered heads. Turkey Vulture has red head, Black Vulture’s is black. In flight, Turkey Vultures show white extending along the entire length of the wing. Black Vultures have white in the wing-tips only.
Resident/migratory, breeder, common year-round.
Usually seen feeding on carrion along the roadside or soaring above.
A large, bulky owl with long ear tufts. Brownish-gray with orange face.
Resident, breeder, uncommon year-round. Forested areas and shrubland.
Opportunistic predator that consumes a wide variety of prey from mice and raccoons to woodpeckers and hawks.
A small, stocky owl with prominent ear tufts. Gray and red color phases. Red is most common on Kiawah.
Resident, breeder, uncommon year-round. Forested areas.
Two distinctive calls given at night include a low, rolling trill and an eerie descending whinny. Eats insects, rodents, and birds.
A medium-sized raptor with long tail. Adults are slate-blue above, orange below with crisp horizontal striping. Immatures are brown above, creamy and brown-streaked below.
Migratory, breeder, uncommon year-round. Forested areas, dunes.
Very skillful flyer. Eats small to medium-sized birds. Often hunts around bird feeders.
A medium-sized, marsh-hovering raptor with a white rump. Adult males are gray above, white below with a dark gray head. Females and immatures are dark above, creamy and streaked below. Owl-like face.
Migratory, common in winter, fall, and spring. Marsh.
A common sight during the winter flying low over Kiawah’s marshes.
Medium-sized raptor. Adults are dark above with white spotting, reddish below with thin white stripes. Immatures are brownish above, creamy below with pale spots.
Resident, breeder, uncommon year-round. Forested areas.
Call is a repeated, loud “kee-ahh” lasting about a second.
Large, soaring raptor. Brownish above, whitish below with a distinct dark belly band. Adults have rusty-red tails.
Resident, breeder, uncommon year-round. Forested areas and marsh.
Prefers to hunt in the open from a high sturdy perch. Call is a hoarse, descending scream lasting 2-3 seconds.
Large raptor. Dark brown above, white below. White head with a prominent dark eye-stripe.
Resident, breeder, common year-round. Forested areas, ocean, beach, river, marsh, and ponds.
Primarily feeds on fish captured by hovering high over the water then plunging in feet first.
A large raptor with a thick yellow bill. Adult is dark with white head and tail. Immatures are dark overall with some to no white in head and tail.
Migratory, breeder, uncommon in winter, fall, and spring. Forested areas, beach, river, and marsh.
Takes 5 years to attain adult plumage.