Happy Holidays!

Northern Cardinal from Wingscapes 12 Birds of Christmas

Happy Holidays from Seabrook Island Birders!  May the season bring you many joys and maybe even a few wonderous feathered finds.

American Robin – Ed Konrad



Pictures of Northern Cardinals, American Robins, Canada Geese and ducks are often seen on holiday cards.  A little research shows how many different birds are in the popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  (Information provided by sites noted below.)

A Partridge in a Pear tree – The “partridge in a pear tree” is probably the Red-legged Partridge, a rotund seed-eater native to continental Europe.

A red-legged partridge surveys the Midlands of England in winter. (Photo: Erni/Shutterstock)

It was introduced to England as a game bird in the 1770s, and it’s still common in the U.K. today. Another candidate might be the Grey Partridge.   This small, chicken-like bird, also known as the Hungarian partridge, is native to Eurasia but now makes its home in agricultural grasslands along the United States–Canadian border. Gray Partridge hens produce a clutch of up to 22 eggs—one of the largest clutches of any bird species—meaning you’ll usually find more than just one partridge in a pear tree.

Two Turtle Doves -Were probably originally European turtle doves, native birds that were widespread in the U.K. when “The 12 Days of Christmas” was introduced.   In the U.S. it would more likely be mourning doves.   Male and female mourning doves work together to feed their babies “crop milk” or “pigeon milk” that’s secreted by their crop lining. These adult pairs tend to mate for life, which may be why the song’s composer reserved this bird for the second slot in the holiday countdown.

Three French Hens – The “French hen” referenced in this Christmas classic could be any chicken breed (as chickens are native to France).  Unfortunately, if you spot a domesticated chicken, you can’t post in eBird as domesticated birds aren’t counted.

Four Calling Birds – Although recent renditions refer to them as “calling birds,” the original version uses “colly birds”—a colloquial British term that means “black as coal”—to describe this bird. Therefore, the common blackbird is widely considered the lover’s intended gift.

Five Golden Rings –  A birder’s interpretation of this gift could be Ring-Necked Pheasants.  The males’ bright copper and gold plumage makes it the perfect “gift”.  Another site suggest five gold rings could refer to five “gold spinks” or Goldfinches.

A greylag goose trudges through snow in central England. (Photo: Erni/Shutterstock)

Six Geese a laying – As a British Christmas carol, the reference is likely to the British bird, the Greylag goose.  We of course are more likely to think of a Canada Goose.

One mute swam goes a-swimming at Forfar Loch in Angus, Scotland. (Photo: Mark Caunt/Shutterstock)

Seven Swans a swimming – the seven swimming waterfowl are most likely mute swans. These large birds were long kept in semi-domesticity in England, where they were considered property of the Crown.


The remaining gifts are not as obvious birding gifts.

Eight Maids-a-milking – Two sites stretched it to be Magpies. They chose the black-billed magpie for its milky white belly.

Nine Ladies dancing – One site said the Parotia, “ballet dancing bird,” is the perfect choice to replace the Christmas carol’s “nine ladies dancing.” Male Parotias learn their unique dance moves from their fathers who use this display to attract a mate. Their decorative, six-quill plumes are dramatic and dazzling. These birds of paradise aren’t native to the song’s country of origin, but you can spot them in New Guinea, a former British territory.

Ten Lords-a-leaping – We sing the song with the ten lords a-leaping, but in  the earliest known variant found in North America, on the Tenth Day of Christmas, the true love sent ten Cocks A-Crowing.

Eleven Pipers piping – Sandpipers could be the easy bird interpretation.

Drummers drumming – The most common drumming bird is said to be the Snipe but another site suggested the Ruffed Grouse is the drumming bird. When displaying for females or defending its territory, the male Ruffed Grouse beats its wings in the air to create a drumming sound that scares off potential threats. Another interesting Ruffed Grouse fact: the bird’s toes grow projections that act as snowshoes in the winter months.

Sites used in submitting this article:

12 Birds of Christmas

The bird songs behind ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’

The 12 Birds of Christmas by John R. Henderson


Learn how to use eBird

eBird Essentials

What is eBird?

eBird  is a real-time, online checklist program that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds.  eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

eBird’s goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers.  ​The observations of each participant join those of others in an international network of eBird users. eBird then shares these observations with a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists. In time these data will become the foundation for a better understanding of bird distribution across the western hemisphere and beyond.

I personally use eBird to track and keep lists of the birds I’ve seen. When I’m traveling I use eBird to give me clues of which birds are in that area that I don’t see on and near Seabrook Island.

How can I learn to use eBird?

Cornell Labs has recently released eBird Essentials: A Free Introductory Course.  If you’re not already using eBird to track bird sightings and participate as a citizen scientist, their brand new eBird Essentials course will show you how.  It is a self-paced, free course designed to help you use the program, search for birds in your area, and explore case studies about how eBird is contributing to the scientific community and conservation efforts.

Is there someone locally that can help me use eBird?

Seabrook Island Birders will be offering a seminar in January on how to use eBird.  If you are interested in attending this seminar, register here.  The date and time will be scheduled once it is known who is interested and the best time for those who have registered.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Photo by: Cerulean Warbler by Andrew Simon / Macaulay Library

Join us Monday to Bird on Ocean Winds Golf Course


Stopped along the 17th hole of Crooked Oaks to observe Eastern Bluebirds at a nesting box.

Date: Monday December 17, 2018 9:00 am – 11:30 am
Activity: Learning Together at Ocean Winds Golf Course
Location: Meet at Island House (Golf Course Parking Lot next to Spinnaker Beach Houses) for “walk” along Ocean Winds Golf Course in golf carts.
Max: 16
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guest

This is a reschedule of our twice rained out events from November.  If you were registered for that event, you will automatically be registered for this rescheduled event.

Join us again for the popular Learning Together birding on our golf courses.  Ocean Winds will be closed to golfers, so join us for a morning of birding by riding in golf carts for at least 9-holes on Ocean Winds Golf Course. We expect to see a large variety of birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Osprey and other birds of prey. We should also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals and some of the many warbler species. Maybe some of our winter residents may also have arrived.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided.

Please register no later than Saturday December 15, 2018. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior the event.

If you have additional questions about the program, please contact us by sending an email to: SeabrookIslandBirders@gmail.com

If you are not yet a 2018 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/ or we request a $5 donation to SIB.

Join us Sunday for Backyard Birding!

Backyard Birding Photographers 011418
Backyard Birding Photographers.


Date: Sunday December 16, 8am-10am
Activity: Backyard Birding
Location:Creek Watch Trace, Seabrook Island
Max: 12-15
Cost: free for SIB Members, $5 fee for guests.


This is a reschedule of the rain delayed Backyard Birding originally scheduled for December 9.

Join SIB members near the home of Melanie and Robert Jerome at the boat dock on Creek Watch Trace on Seabrook Island on Sunday, December 16, 2018, 8:00 – 10:00 am. You will have great views of the marsh and river. The Jerome’s have hosted the group in September and again in November when an average of 23 species was seen each time. There is a lot to see at the SIPOA boat ramp and crab dock. Not only are there many shore birds, but the Clapper Rails are active at low tide. Melanie Jerome lives at Creek Watch Villas and sees them every morning. Many shorebirds and songbirds. In the marsh by the fire station, additional birds may be seen. There will be seats available to sit and bird or a group can go walking.

Bring a snack if you like along with binoculars and bug spray.

Once you are a member, please REGISTER no later than Friday December 14, 2018. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior the event.

If you have additional questions about the program, please contact us by sending an email to: SeabrookIslandBirders@gmail.com

If you are not yet a 2018 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website or we request a $5 donation to SIB.

“My Patch”

My favorite birding magazine is BirdWatching which is published six times a year by Madavor Media, LLC.  One of the common contributors is Pete Dunne, an author who is described as “New Jersey Audubon’s ambassador at large.”  In the September/October issue, he has a piece entitled “My Patch.”  It is about a nearby spot where he can bird, when time is short, with some certainty of success.  I think Seabrook Island, as a SIBer’s ‘patch’, rather fits his definition.  Thus, I would like to share bits and pieces of this article from BirdWatching’s Vol. 32, Issue 5.

Pete describes his “new favorite spot” as being “a 13-minute drive from my door.”  “Why this particular location …..?  In a word, birds …. the volume of birds and the delicious proximity.”   “And yes, I love to spend the day birding Cape May, but that takes planning …… when I count up the minutes and the benefits, I find that I invest most of my birding time in my local patch.

“I’ll bet you have one too, and I hope, like mine, your patch is protected. Be a shame to wake up one morning and find a sign on your site ….. . All local natural areas are priceless, offering variable habitat for local wildlife and a focus for birders when good fortune knocks.  Make sure your local land planners appreciate the importance to this local Eden of yours.  You are your local patch’s greatest champion.  Be a vocal one.  And before interests compete, document, document, document.  Prove the importance of that local woodlot with breeding survey data, migration counts, and winter bird surveys.  Or team up ….. and organize an annual Earth Day bird outing for residents and local politicians.  Show them the special nature of your patch.”

Thanks, Pete.  Seabrook is our local patch! Substitute any of ‘North Beach’ or ‘Equestrian Center’ or ‘Garden/maintenance Area’ or ‘Jenkins Point’ for the woodlot mentioned in Pete’s paragraph.  Our Eden is at hand and its future is in our hands.

Submitted by:  George Haskins

Member sees rare Great Black Hawk in Maine

My name is Karen O’Brien and I am a member of Seabrook Island Birders.  I share my time between Seabrook and my home in Portland, Maine.  On December 3, I had the opportunity to see a rare Great Black Hawk.  I thought my friends on Seabrook may like to share my experience.  That Monday, I spent a very very special three hours in a large park in the middle of the city of Portland, ME watching, with at least 200 of our closest friends, a Great Black Hawk devouring as many squirrels as he could. He has never been sighted in the U.S. , so I’m told, living between Mexico and Argentina . I spoke with many people who had flown in from the Midwest and other parts of the country!!!    It was a thrill and privilege to look up and revel in the grace and beauty and sheer fortitude of this amazing vagrant.
An article in the Boston Globe provides more information.
The bird remains in the area so maybe some of you want to take a field trip to cold Maine for this rare experience.   It IS very cold and icy here with about 8 inches of snow
Submitted by: Karen O’Brien
Photo by: Andres Picon of the Boston Globe

Preventing Bird Collision with Glass Windows

We have so much natural beauty on Seabrook Island and, naturally, we want large unobstructed windows in our homes so that we are able to enjoy that beauty and our wildlife at all times. Unfortunately, these windows are a constant danger to the birds that we love seeing and have lured to our yards with feeders. So often our neighbors post on our social media sites about being heartsick when a bird dies after colliding into a window, and we all understand how sad that is to witness. 

A Black-and-white Warbler sits quietly and recovers after hitting a window. Photo by Laura Erickson via Birdshare

There are many suggestions on how to prevent birds from flying into your windows. Understandably, many of us do not want to give up our views by installing heavy draperies or applying sticky notes every two inches. If you are serious about finding alternatives, there are some less obtrusive solutions. Check out the link below for some ideas and also read the comments from other bird enthusiasts. Some people have had success by simply moving the location of their feeder or not cleaning their windows. Now, that’s a win-win! 

We really do have so many birds right outside our windows. Let’s do our part to keep them safe and abundant.


Submitted by: Joleen Ardaiolo

Photo by Laura Erickson via Birdshare