Photo by Ed Funk

In December 2013, the local chapter of the Audubon Society conducted their Annual Christmas Bird Count. It revealed 140 bird species and a total of 28,149 birds.

Large blue herons and white egrets pose handsomely beside lagoons and marshes. Dark and spooky anhingas look magnificent as they stretch their wings out to dry, and gulls and sandpipers scold you on the beach. Both the amateur and the avid birdwatcher quickly recognize Hilton Head as a prime place for birding.

All species of herons, egrets, and ibises seen in North America are present in the Hilton Head area. The casual bird lover will see plenty of feathered creatures on almost any guided nature tour. Guides and naturalists will be able to identify the most common species for you.

For more specialized birding, two places on Hilton Head have qualified with the State of South Carolina as “Important Birding Areas”: Ibis Pond in the Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge and Lake Mary in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.   Both sites are home to densely populated rookeries in springtime.

Another ideal birding location is the 50-acre Audubon Newhall Preserve on Palmetto Bay Road. It has a two-mile walking trail system. You will see a wide variety of plants and trees as well as itinerant birds. A trail guide is available in a kiosk at the entrance for a self-guided nature walk. The preserve is open during daylight hours. Parking is available. There is no entrance free.

Birding is an essential part of the Lowcountry experience. Most guided ecotours include bird watching as part of their excursions. You can tour by kayak or on boats ranging in size from small six-passenger canopied boats to sailboats to double-deck excursion boats. Most nature tours are offered year around.

For more information, contact:

Commander Zodiac (843) 671-3344

Dolphin and Nature Cruises (843) 681-2522

Dolphin Seafari (843) 785-2345

Flying Circus (843) 686-2582

Island Explorer (843) 785-2100

Kayak Hilton Head (843) 684-1910

Live Oac Adventures (888) 254-8362

Lowcountry Wildlife Photo Safaris (843) 524-3037

Outside Hilton Head (800) 686-6996

Palmetto Bay Marina ( 843) 785-7131

Palmetto Bay Water Sports ( 843) 785-2345

Pau Hana (843) 686-2582

Salt Marsh Photographic Cruises (843) 681-3728


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