Bird watching in South Carolina

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker | Image via The Macaulay Library

Table of Contents

SC is home to hundreds of year-round + migrating bird species, each with their own characteristics, habits, and songs. You’ve likely seen more of them lately — at your feeders, on your fence posts, or swooping overhead. In South Carolina, we get to celebrate the arrival of winter finches — like the American Goldfinch (pictured below) each winter.

Since so many birds are active right now, you may be wondering what they all are — and you don’t need a lot of expensive gear to figure it out. The most important things are your own two eyes...and a little curiosity. If one of your new year’s resolutions was to get out more or to try a new hobby, birding might just be the thing for you.

Here are some tips + tricks below to get started birdwatching.👇

There’s an app for that

Websites + apps have made birdwatching more accessible than ever. Here are a few we recommend.

Merlin: This free identification app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology includes photos, an identification tool, and a database of songs + calls for every bird you’re likely to come across in your area. Also from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, ebird is a great website for birders to find birds, keep track of bird lists, explore the latest sightings + contribute to science. The best part of ebird is the hotspots locator. Columbia has many local spots where birders have seen more than 200 species.

Audubon South Carolina: State-specific information on species, conservation, resources + tips for birdwatching, bird-friendly gardening and more.

B(u)y the book

Armed with a good field guide, a little knowledge can go a long way. Here are a few of the most popular guides:

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by David Allen Sibley

Peterson Field Guide to Birds by Roger Tory Peterson

Peterson Field Guide to Feeder Birds of Eastern North America by Roger Tory Peterson

Feed the birds

The easiest way to view birds is to bring them to you. Retailers like Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Walmart, Tractor Supply, and Lowe’s all have good selections of bird feeders in different shapes and sizes. This link has some ideas on the best types of bird feeders to purchase + what kind of food (seed, suet, or nectar) to offer.

The folks at Wild Birds Unlimited (four locations) can hook you up with a great bird feeder + locally-sourced seed and suet (a birdseed cake). They’re also extremely knowledgeable about all things birds.

Some tricks of the trade

  • Use a 4:1 water to sugar ratio for your hummingbird nectar. Contrary to popular belief the nectar does not need to be colored red to attract the hummingbirds.
  • Black oil sunflower seed is a tried and true favorite that most birds will love.
  • The Eastern Bluebird is very popular in our area. If you’re feeling extra ambitious (or bored), follow these instructions on how to build your own bluebird nestbox. ProTip: These boxes should be placed in an open area at least five feet off the ground. They should also face a tree or bush less than 50 feet away, so the fledglings will have a place to live for several days after leaving the nest.
  • Carolina Wrens are also popular native nesters who make nests in many different places.

Here are 10 of the birds you may be seeing (or hearing) in your backyard now:

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch | Image via The Macaulay Library

Blue Jay

Blue Jay | Image via The Macaulay Library

Brown Trasher

Brown Thrasher | Image via The Macaulay Library

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker | Image via The Macaulay Library

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird | Image via The Macaulay Library

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee | Image via The Macaulay Library

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal | Image via The Macaulay Library

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker | Image via The Macaulay Library

pine warbler

Pine Warbler | Image via The Macaulay Library

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker | Image via The Macaulay Library


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