Birding is one of America’s favorite leisure pastimes. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 45 million Americans watch birds, whether in our backyards or in a local park or far-flung destination.

The good news is that on Hilton Head Island, you don’t have to go far to enjoy great-looking birds. You just need to step outside. More than 220 bird species have been observed on Hilton Head, and fall migration is a great time to see them.

Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees and Carolina Wrens grace our feeders all year long. Along our shorelines and marshes you’ll find colorful wading birds like our Great Blue, Little Blue and Tri-colored Herons. If you’re lucky, you might spot a Roseate Spoonbill, a large pink-and-white beauty with a comical bill that looks like a cooking utensil.

Among the smaller shorebirds on the beach, you might find an endangered Piping Plover. Shorebirds are hard to pick out in a crowd, but you may recognize this one when it’s moving about. It’s little to be sure, but stocky for its diminutive size. Its bill looks like a little piece of candy corn and its orange legs stand out from the other sandpipers and plovers, whose legs are mostly drab. Only 8,400 Piping Plovers remain in the world, but you can find up to a dozen on our beaches in the fall and winter, some with colorful bands on their legs to mark where they came from. The bands were put there by scientists studying the migration patterns of this species.

Island of Birds2

As the heat of summer slowly gives way to cooler dawns and dusks, our woods come alive with the sights and sounds of migrating warblers. Some have obvious names like the Yellow-Throated Warbler or Black-and- White Warbler. Others require a little studying, like Northern Parula or American Redstart, which isn’t always red. Warblers generally like it up high in the trees: you can get a sore neck looking for them, but these colorful songbirds are well worth the effort.

Birds are tightly woven into the fabric of Hilton Head Island; the more we get to know these amazing creatures, the better we can ensure that they remain an important part of our community for generations to come.

John Bloomfield is the vice president and Bob Speare is the field trip coordinator for Hilton Head Audubon, Hilton Head Island’s leading voice in bird conservation. For information on upcoming Audubon events or to become a member, go to


The Lowcountry offers plenty of opportunities to spot birds. Try these prime viewing destinations:

PINCKNEY ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE: Fourteen miles of walking and biking trails through a range of coastal habitats — a must for wildlife photographers.

SEA PINES FOREST PRESERVE: The largest tract of undeveloped land and the largest open freshwater ponds on Hilton Head Island.

MITCHELVILLE FREEDOM PARK AND FISH HAUL BEACH PARK: At these adjacent locations, birders are treated to three important natural ecosystems — maritime forest, salt marsh and the beauty of Port Royal Sound.

AUDUBON NEWHALL PRESERVE: Fifty acres of interconnected trails and a quiet oasis when the island is busy.

JARVIS CREEK PARK: Relaxed birding along a 1.1-mile loop trail through forest and pond edges.