Hilton Head Island Audubon Society says you can spot up to 200 types of birds on the island.
These birds are common. These are all either photos we took on Hilton Head Island or birds we see a lot.
When you see a bird, watch it and note identifying characteristics.
- Color and markings
- Movements; how it walks, hops or flies
- What and how it is eating; Is it hunting? Fishing? Or pecking seeds?
- Current conditions, time of year, time of day, weather
Now, you are ready to look in your field guide.
If you pull out the book right away, by the time you look for the bird again, it’s gone.
Bring a little pad to jot things down, so you don’t forget.
Easy Birds to See
Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias)
- The largest of the North American herons
- Long legs
- A sinuous neck
- Thick, daggerlike bill
- Blue-gray from a distance
- Wide black stripe over the eye.
Great Blue Herons have a white phase, which can be confusing. They look very much like a Great Egret, but the legs are not black.
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
- Black legs year-round
- Long, moderately heavy, yellow bill
- No head plumes.
Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
These are the easiest birds on the island to identify. The swim with just their heads sticking out of the water, then stand with their wings out to dry off. The males are all black. The females have a brown head. I just love these guys.
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
- White heads and tails
- Dark brown bodies and wings mottled with white
- Bright yellow legs and bills
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
- Dark brown upperparts, white underparts, faint breast band, small white head with dark crown, eye stripe and bill
- Barred flight feathers and dark patches on the fore wing show in flight
- Grey legs and feet
- You see them hunting fish near large bodies of water
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
These are pretty common.
These are really easy to identify. You can hear them before you see them.
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
You can’t mistake a pelican. If there are any other kind of pelican’s on Hilton Head, I’ve not seen them.
Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
- Plain black back
- No white spots or wing-bars
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)
These are not gregarious birds. They don’t hang out in large flocks. The ones in flocks are Sanderlings. The bigger ones by themselves are Spotted Sandpipers.
Sanderling (Calidris alba)
Any time you say this is a Sanderling, someone will correct you and tell you it is a sandpiper. Every single time. Yes, it is a kind of small sandpiper, a cute, fat sandpiper. These are the ones in large flocks on the mudflats and sandy beaches.
“This is the little sandpiper that runs up and down the beach “like a clockwork toy,” chasing the receding waves.” Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds