South Carolina hosts over 400 different avian species, some of which are permanent residents and others that are migratory visitors. Birds can be found all over the state, from coastal environments to deep within forests, to being common backyard visitors. This article highlights 28 of the incredible bird species South Carolina is home to.
- List of Birds of South Carolina
- Carolina Wren
- Carolina Chickadee
- Eastern Towhee
- Chimney Swift
- Common Grackle
- Painted Bunting
- Blue Jay
- Northern Cardinal
- Tufted Titmouse
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker
- Cedar Waxwing
- Red-Tailed Hawk
- Mourning Dove
- Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
- Northern Mockingbird
- White-Breasted Nuthatch
- American Redstart
- Eastern Bluebird
- Canada Goose
- Beach and Coastal Birds of South Carolina
- FAQ Birds of South Carolina
List of Birds of South Carolina
Some of the birds that inhabit South Carolina boast exquisite, striking plumages like that of the painted bunting. Others have more subdued, cryptic appearances, like the willet and piping plover.
Additionally, the size of these birds varies greatly. Brown pelicans, with their wingspan of 80 inches dwarf species like the already tiny Carolina chickadee, standing at less than 5 inches.
Moreover, these birds not only differ in their morphology but also their behavior. Red-tailed hawks are solitary and prey on terrestrial mammals to fuel their carnivorous diet, whereas mourning doves forage in flocks for agricultural grains.
Scientific Name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
Carolina wrens have red-brown upper parts and a tan-colored belly. They have a white throat and eyebrows. They creep among vegetation in search of fruit and insects to consume. They frequent vegetated habitats including woodlands, overgrown farmland, and bushy suburban yards. They are distributed across Eastern America.
Scientific Name: Poecile carolinensis
The Carolina chickadee appears quite spherical due to their large head and short neck. They have a black cap and throat that are contrasted by bright white cheeks. Their back, wings, and tail are slate gray whilst their belly is a paler gray.
They gather in flocks to forage for insects which make up about 90% of their diet. Carolina chickadees occupy deciduous forests and dense woodlands, but also venture into urban regions.
Scientific Name: Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Male Eastern towhees boast a striking plumage that is black above, white on the belly, and rust-brown along either side. Females look similar, but they are brown on top instead of black. These birds forage for insects and fruits under leaves using a backward hopping motion. towhees occupy scrub habitats that have lots of leaf litter for them to forage among. They range from Indiana to Texas.
Scientific Name: Chaetura pelagica
Chimney swifts plumage is soot-gray in color. They have a very short bill that is often difficult to see. They spend the majority of their life in the air as they are unable to perch and can only cling to vertical walls, like those inside chimneys.
They are often seen in flight, catching airborne insects. They are most common in urban habitats that have an abundance of chimneys. These birds migrate from Northeast America to Northern South America for the winter.
Scientific Name: Quiscalus quiscula
The Common Grackle is a species of medium-sized blackbird found throughout North America. It is approximately ten inches in length, with a stout body and long tail and has iridescent black feathers with brownish eyes and a sharp metallic beak.
Common Grackles are omnivorous birds that feed mainly on insects, earthworms, snails, nuts and small fruits. They prefer open fields such as meadows, prairies or agricultural land for their habitat and can often be seen perched on power lines or fences near these areas.
Common Grackles form strong pair bonds that last for more than one breeding season. Their nests are typically built high up in trees using an array of materials such as sticks, twigs and grasses collected by the male while the female builds the nest structure.
A notable characteristic of Common Grackles is their aggressive behavior when defending territories or protecting food sources from other birds, often engaging in aerial dogfights or ground scuffles to establish dominance over competitors. This makes them well-suited for life in North America where they inhabit many regions across the continent including parts of Canada, Mexico and Alaska.
Scientific Name: Passerina ciris
Male-painted buntings boast a cobalt blue head, a bright red belly and rump, and a yellow-green back. Females however are bright yellow-green overall. Painted buntings feed predominantly on seeds that they forage for along the ground.
They also consume insects during the breeding season. They live in scrub habitats scattered with lots of shrubs. These birds are native to North America.
Scientific Name: Cyanocitta cristata
Blue jays have a bright blue back and crest, and a white belly. Their tail and wings are vibrant blue and decorated with black and white stripes. Although they are omnivores, they predominantly feast on plant matter.
Acorns are one of this species’ favorite foods. They frequent both urban and rural habitats, favoring those with oak trees or bird feeders. The blue jay is distributed across Canada, Central America, and Texas.
Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Male northern cardinals boast bright red plumage that is contrasted by a black mask. They also have a red crest that is raised when they become agitated. Female northern cardinals however have an entirely gray-brown plumage.
They feed mostly on fruits, grains, and seeds, which they forage for on the ground. These birds live in open woodland habitats throughout Northeast America.
Scientific Name: Baeolophus bicolor
Tufted titmice have stocky bodies and short bills. They have a silver-gray plumage above and a cream belly. Insects such as caterpillars, ants, and beetles make up the majority of their diet, but they also consume seeds, nuts, and berries.
Tufted Titmouse inhabits forests that are full of deciduous and evergreen trees. They are distributed across the Eastern range of North America.
Scientific Name: Melanerpes carolinus
Red-bellied woodpeckers have light grey faces and bellies. Their back, wings, and tail are strongly barred with contrasting black and white feathers. Males have a red cap whilst it’s just the nape in females that are red.
They use their beak to chisel into the bark of trees and extract insects with their tongue. These species live in forests and woodlands across the Eastern United States.
Scientific Name: Bombycilla cedrorum
Cedar waxwings have a pale brown head that fades into a soft grey down their back and wings. They have a pale yellow belly and their tail is adorned with a bright yellow tip. Their wing tips have bright, waxy red feathers.
Fruits are the staple food sources of their diet and during the winter months they consume vast amounts of cedar berries, hence their name. they reside in open habitats with plenty of fruit trees and plants to feast on. They have a large range from North moving down to South America during the winter.
Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis
Red-tailed hawks are large birds with a wingspan of around 52 inches. They have dark brown feathers on their upper parts and are white underneath and have a cinnamon-red tail. These birds of prey feed mainly on mammals, but will also consume smaller birds, snakes, and carrion.
They occupy virtually any open habitat from grasslands, to deserts to woodlands. They have a wide range in North America, from Alaska to Panama.
Scientific Name: Zenaida macroura
Mourning doves are pale gray and have large, black spots on their wings. They have a peach-colored belly and thin, dark tails. These birds feast primarily on seeds, consuming roughly 71 calories each day.
They live in open habitats with plenty of scattered trees and vegetation, such as farmlands and forest clearings. They breed in North and South America and Migrate as far North as Mexico over the winter.
Scientific Name: Archilochus colubris
Male ruby-throated hummingbirds have a metallic red throat which becomes very prominent when exposed to direct sunlight. They have pale underparts whilst their back and wings are metallic golden-green. Females look similar but lack the vibrant red throat feathers. Due to their very short legs, this species cannot walk, only shuffle.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds feed mostly on nectar that they obtain from flowers using their long bills and tongues. These birds can be found in open areas such as meadows, backyards, and parks across Northeast America.
Scientific Name: Mimys polyglottos
These birds are mainly gray-brown with lighter breasts and bellies. White patches on their wings become visible during flight. Northern mockingbirds are omnivores and are famous for their large vocal repertoire. They reside in suburban areas that have shrubby vegetation across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Scientific Name: Sitta carolinensis
The White-Breasted Nuthatch, is a small bird found throughout North America. It is approximately five inches in length, with slate-blue upper parts and white underparts, and has a long black bill and short tail.
White-breasted Nuthatches are insectivorous birds that feed mainly on beetles, caterpillars, and other small insects. They prefer coniferous or mixed woodlands for their habitat and can often be seen active on tree trunks searching for food, or perched atop tall trees while peering out into the surrounding area.
White-breasted Nuthatches form strong pair bonds that last for more than one breeding season. Their nests are typically built in a cavity in a tree using an array of materials such as mosses, twigs, and animal fur collected by the male while the female builds the nest structure.
A notable characteristic of White-breasted Nuthatches is their agility when foraging for food, as they can climb up or down tree trunks headfirst at great speeds to search for insects under the bark or in crevices. This makes them well-suited for life in North America where they inhabit many regions across the continent including parts of Canada, Mexico, and Alaska.
Scientific Name: Setophaga ruticilla
American redstarts show sexual dimorphism. Males exhibit jet-black plumage with vivid orange patches along their wings, sides, and tail. They utilize their striking plumage to startle their insect prey out of the vegetation.
American Redstart lives in moist woodlands situated near bodies of water. They have a large geographical distribution ranging from Florida to Central Mexico to the Caribbean.
Scientific Name: Sialia sialis
Males boast a vibrant blue plumage with rusty orange breasts whereas females have a more subdued coloration. Eastern bluebirds scan the ground for prey whilst perching on branches or posts. Their diet consists of insects or berries, depending on the season.
They live in open habitats, nesting in boxes or tree holes excavated by previous birds. They are distributed across North and South America.
Scientific Name: Branta canadensis
Canada geese have a black head and neck which is broken up by their iconic white chinstrap. Their body is coated in brown feathers and have webbed feet and broad, flat bill. They feed mainly on seeds and berries that they forage on the ground.
These birds reside in marshy habitats near large bodies of water. They are widespread throughout America and also inhabit Eurasia and New Zealand.
Beach and Coastal Birds of South Carolina
Scientific Name: Haematopus longirostris
The American oystercatcher has contrasting black and white plumage. Their slender bill, elongated legs, and round eyes are bright orange. These birds use their specialized bill to probe the sandy ground, looking for mollusks and bivalves to break open and consume.
They inhabit shorelines and favor sandy beaches or salt marshes. American oystercatchers have a concentrated range along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf Coasts of the United States.
Scientific Name: Ardea alba
The Great Egret is found throughout North America. It is approximately three feet in length, with a wingspan of up to five feet, and has white feathers with a long yellowish bill and black legs.
Great Egrets are carnivorous birds that feed mainly on small reptiles and amphibians, as well as insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and sometimes fish. They prefer wetlands such as marshes, ponds, lakes, and lagoons for their habitat and can often be seen perched atop tall trees or bushes near these areas.
Great Egrets form strong pair bonds that last for more than one breeding season. Their nests are typically built high up in trees using an array of materials such as sticks, grasses, and leaves collected by the male while the female builds the nest structure.
A notable characteristic of Great Egrets is their elaborate courtship displays which involve the male offering gifts of food or small objects to the female during the mating ritual. This makes them well-suited for life in North America where they inhabit many regions across the continent including parts of Canada, Mexico, and Alaska.
Scientific Name: Pelecanus occidentalis
These huge birds have gray-brown plumage with a yellow head and a long, white neck. During the breeding season, the back and sides of their neck become red-brown. They have long bills and a stretchy throat pouch which is ideal for catching their fish prey. Brown pelicans are coastal marine birds and reside on the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific Coasts in the Americas.
Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus
These large raptors have brown wings and a white head and belly. Ospreys eat almost exclusively fish, that they grab from the water’s surface. They inhabit shallow waters full of fish. They have a vast range spanning from Alaska to Mexico.
American White Ibis
Scientific Name: Eudocimus albus
White ibises are almost entirely white, aside from a few black feathers on the tips of their wings. They have an incredibly long, slender, and downward curved bill that is bright orange in color. The white ibis forages in groups in wetland habitats. These birds use their specialized bill to probe the marshy ground in search of small aquatic organisms. The white ibis ranges across America.
Scientific Name: Nannpterum auritum
These birds have matte-black plumage and orange facial skin. They have webbed feet that are ideal for diving into the water to catch fish. They inhabit fresh and saltwater lakes and ponds throughout North America.
Scientific Name: Podilymbus Podiceps
Pied-billed grebes are small and chunky waterbirds that have brown plumage and a white rump. They eat mostly crustaceans that they crush with their strong bill and jaws. They live in wetland habitats across North and Central America with some populations inhabiting Mexico.
Scientific Name: Catoptrophorus semipalmatus
During the breeding season, they have a mottled brown plumage and during the winter it’s gray overall. When in flight they reveal black and white stripes along their wings. They use their long bills to probe for aquatic invertebrates along open coastlines. Willets are widespread along the Coastlines of the Americas.
Scientific Name: Charadrius melodus
These small, round birds have sandy-colored plumage with a black neck and head patch, offset by an orange beak and legs. They feed on aquatic invertebrates that they probe for in the soft sand with their stubby beak. Piping plovers live along the shorelines of North and Northeast America.