SIB “Bird of the Week” – Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
Length:  6.5″;  Wingspan:  9.75″;  Weight:  0.75 oz.

Aside from the Carolina Chickadee, this is probably the most likely visitor to a backyard feeder on Seabrook Island. It is silvery gray with a soft-colored orange just below its wing. It is a small bird but appears considerably bigger than a chickadee when they are next to one another, which they often are. Its crest is a good field mark.

During the summer months, titmice feed on insects but in the winter, they are particularly fond of sunflower seeds, and the bigger the better. If you have a feeder in your yard, you can watch as the titmouse picks out a large seed, holds it between its feet and pecks on it vigorously until the seed cracks open to release the tender heart inside. They are quite brave and will come to a feeder that is placed on a window providing a wonderful view for the homeowner.

The titmouse has a big sound for such a small bird. His main song sounds as though he is calling in a two-note descending minor third (for you musical folks) which is repeated usually three to four times: Peter Peter Peter. It’s a full, rich sound and quite distinguishable once you are familiar with it.

As the map below indicates, the Tufted Titmouse is here all year long. They build their nests in pre-existing tree cavities or sometimes in a bluebird box. They are quite territorial such that, even when breeding is finished, the male and female remain together and do not join with others as the chickadees do.

Tufted Titmouse pair nesting in a tree cavity.
Tufted Titmouse pair nesting in a tree cavity.

Watch for these little guys. They are not the biggest or the brightest (color, that is) but they grow on you! View this short video from Cornell Lab of Ornithology to see the Tufted Titmouse.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Marcia Hider
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad and File Photos

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Birding from My Back Porch

Pine Warbler at meal worm feeder

I have a perfect 4-season back porch for backyard birdwatching. There is an undeveloped lot next to my house, a lagoon just behind, and a backyard that has no grass and is small and flat for optimal visibility. Additionally, there are two large Live Oak trees and one large Pine tree close to the porch for birds to perch and hide. Because of the water and native plants I probably do not need feeders to attract birds. However, over the past 4 years I have made it my mission to set up the perfect arrangement of feeders, food, and birdbaths to attract as many species as possible. This season I have seen almost 40 different species just sitting on my back porch. 

Feeders in backyard

For four years I have tweaked the arrangement of my feeders and food by observing the behavior of the birds and their seed or suet preference. This will change seasonally. There are, by far, a greater number and variety of birds at the feeders during the winter and, therefore, this is my favorite time for backyard birdwatching. 

I have 4 poles and 15 different feeders that I can easily watch while sitting at my table on the back porch. None of the feeders are large and, in fact, some are quite small. Keeping the feeders clean is important for the health of the birds. Even though it’s more work to fill small feeders daily, it makes it easier to keep them clean. Like making coffee and walking the dog, filling the feeders has become part of my morning routine. 

Blue Jay at Bark Butter

To attract different birds, I offer different feed. At this time of year, I have 4 suet feeders. Two are small cylinder cages where I put homemade suet and two are the square cages for the store bought “Peanut Delight” suet cakes. These attract woodpeckers and warblers. Additionally, I have been spreading some of the bark butter with cayenne pepper in notches on the trees close to my porch. I’m amazed at the different birds clinging to the trees enjoying this bark butter. No special equipment needed and the squirrels steer clear.

I have 3 small tube feeders; 2 filled with mixed “no mess” nuts and seeds and 1 with white millet. White millet is a very inexpensive seed that’s particularly popular with Painted Buntings. Birds who don’t necessarily like to share their feeding space seem to prefer my smallest tube feeder that has only two feeding ports. I have 3 tiny bowl feeders attached to the poles for dried mealworms. Mealworms most notably attract Eastern Bluebirds, but also many warblers. Almost all birds will eat sunflower seeds so I have several open platform type feeders with Black Oil Sunflower Seeds in the shell. 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Even in the winter I put out my hummingbird feeder. It is surprising how often hummingbirds are seen here even during the coldest weather. Another nice addition was an oriole feeder that friends gave me. I have been diligently filling the little bowl with grape jelly over the past two years. So, for those two years the grape jelly attracted Carolina Chickadees, hummingbirds, and even a Black-throated Blue Warbler, but not a Baltimore Oriole. Finally, this January there have been at least two Baltimore Orioles visiting the feeder almost daily. Patience, perseverance, and a lot of grape jelly paid off. 

Sharp-shinned Hawk enjoying bath – Joleen Ardaiolo

I make sure that there is always fresh water available. In the backyard is one old concrete birdbath that came with my house built in the 90’s. This attracts as many birds as my feeders and, additionally, it attracts birds that don’t visit feeders. As I was writing this blog, a Sharp-shinned Hawk came down for a drink and a bath. Naturally there were no other squirrels or birds to be seen or heard while he was freshening up. I have also made two smaller birdbaths out of flower pots for the birds who spend time foraging on the ground like the Hermit Thrush, Mourning Dove, and Palm Warbler. 

Western Tanager at platform feeder – Jackie Brooks

This is my hobby and it makes me happy and relaxed to see the birds everyday. Studying to learn the characteristics and sounds of birds is helping to keep my mind sharp. Additionally, even though “birding” can be a solitary hobby, there are many people who enjoy birdwatching on many different levels with whom you can engage. You can even become a citizen scientist and report what you observe to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology through eBird or FeederWatch. This year I have been fortunate to have a Western Tanager at my feeders. This is a rare bird for our area, and because I report it to eBird each day that I see it, the Western Tanager on Seabrook Island in January 2022 will become an interesting statistic. 

Do you need 15 feeders? Absolutely not! This many feeders requires a lot of time and money. If you can manage one tube feeder, one suet feeder, and one small birdbath you will attract a lot of backyard birds. OR – you are always welcome to visit and watch the birds from my porch.

Winter Banding of Painted Buntings

Painted Buntings usually summer in the Charleston area but are largely gone from November through March. Aaron Given from the Town of Kiawah Island decided to study this further and posted on Facebook:

Over the past 10 years, the number of Painted Buntings wintering in South Carolina, particularly in the Charleston area, has dramatically increased. To understand why, we need to learn about the population demographics, survivorship, and site fidelity of these overwintering birds. I am looking for people in the greater Charleston area that have Painted Buntings regularly coming to their bird feeders, and that would allow me to trap and place bands on the bird’s legs. Each bird would get a series of colored bands that would be unique to that individual so that it can be identified without having to recapture it again.

Three birds in caged feeder

Melodie Murphy saw this post and knew her backyard met the criteria as she had recently seen as many as 5 Painted Buntings at a time at her feeder. On a recent cold morning, Aaron came to her house and set up his station. Previously, Aaron has banded Painted Buntings in the summer using  a specially designed cage with a feeder placed inside. He placed this same feeder/cage next to Melodie’s now empty feeder. Within 10 minutes, 3 Painted Buntings were inside.

Each bird was then measured, weighed and aged. The three birds were a hatch year (sex indeterminate), an adult female and an adult male. A unique numbered metal band was placed on one leg of each bird. Each was then given the colored bands that would allow it to be easily identified. Before Aaron left, he had banded 6 Painted Buntings (1 adult male, 3 adult females, 2 immatures sex unknown). Melodie was given a log to record her resightings.

View the slide show to see the entire process.

If you have Painted Buntings at your feeder and are interested in participating, contact Aaron at

Photos: Dean Morr

Learning Together-Ocean Winds Golf Course

Monday January 31, 2022 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Birding on Ocean Winds Golf Course
Location: Meet at Island House (Golf Course Parking Lot next to Spinnaker Beach Houses) for ride along the golf course in golf carts
Max: 24 (If all seats in golf carts are used)
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests – Priority will be given to prior waitlisted & members

The Seabrook Island Club closes one course a day each week and allows Seabrook Island Birders to use golf carts to travel the course with our members to bird. 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 Egrets, Herons and birds of prey. We will also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens and some of the many warbler species.

Since it is fall/winter, we can also expect to see Eastern Phoebes, Northern Flickers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Belted Kingfishers, Double-crested Cormorants, Bald Eagles, and more!

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars/cameras, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided. We ask that all participants wear a mask when unable to social distance if they are not vaccinated.


If you are not yet a 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: You may bring the form and your dues to the event. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Learning Together-North Beach

Learning Together at North BeachSaturday, January 29, 2022 3:00pm-5:00pm
Birding at North Beach
Location: Meet at Boardwalk # 1 Parking lot
Max: none
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests

Join SIB to bird at Seabrook Island’s North Beach. This three mile round trip walk travels from Board Walk #1 to the tip of North Beach along Captain Sams Inlet as high tide approaches. Birders from beginners to advanced birders will enjoy the variety of birds found on North Beach. At this time, many different species of shorebirds rest and feed near the point or along the beach ridge near the beach’s pond. Along the way, we will explore the many different species that can be found in this unique area.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars/cameras, hats and sunscreen. Bring a spotting scope if you have one. There should be spotting scopes available for viewing. Bring plenty to drink and a snack if desired. There are no facilities. We ask that all participants wear a mask when unable to social distance if they are not vaccinated.

If you are not yet a 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: You may bring the form and your dues to the event. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please REGISTER no later than January 27th. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on January 28nd, the day prior to the trip. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

View Bald Eagle and Great Horned Owl Bird Cams

Tired of watching reruns on Netflix? There are two live camera feeds in the area of birds on their nests. There is a Bald Eagle nest on Hilton Head Island and a Great Horned Owl nest in Savannah. Both are live feeds and anything can happen.

Hilton Head Island Land Trust has an Eagle cam on a nest located on private property in an undisclosed area since eagles can be quite sensitive to human activity while nesting.  The First Eaglet HH3 hatched on 12/26/2021 and Second Eaglet HH4 hatched on 12/27/2021. Watch the live action and read more about this nest in cooperation with the Hilton Head Island Land Trust

During the Fall of 2014, a pair of Great Horned Owls began frequenting an abandoned Bald Eagle nest adjacent to a protected, nutrient-rich salt marsh at The Landings, on Skidaway Island, near Savannah, Georgia. A pair of owls successfully fledged four owlets from the site in 2015 and 2016, but they did not return to breed in 2017. An Osprey pair has nested at this site since then, but change is afoot as the 2022 breeding season gets underway and the nest site returns to the owls! You can keep up with the Great Horned Owls all through nesting season on this live-streamed camera feed from Cornell Lab and Skidaway Audubon. Watch the live action here.

If this hasn’t given you enough bird cams. Cornell Lab has more cameras of nests and feeding stations for various birds. You can find a complete list with links at their All Camera site.

Register for SIB’s February Virtual Evening Program

Hemispheric Flights of Migratory Shorebirds

Everyone is Welcome!

Date: Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Program starts 7:00pm.
Location: Zoom Virtual Video
Fee: Free
Attendance: 500

Questions? Email us at:

Each year millions of shorebirds migrate to Arctic breeding grounds from wintering sites in South & Central America and southern North America. SC beaches are important sites for these long-distance migratory birds. Many know the Red Knot’s journey – Arctic tundra to nest, southern South America for winter, AND a stop in SC to refuel. But what about Whimbrels, Dunlin, Sanderlings, and Semipalmated Plovers that also nest on the northern Arctic shores?

What are migration routes of Seabrook’s shorebirds? Where do the birds spend the rest of the year? How do banding, innovative tagging & tracking technology, and peoples’ reporting help identify birds’ exact movements and locations? Join us for Felicia Sanders’, SCDNR partner and SIB’s good friend, fascinating look at the diverse countries & habitats shorebirds encounter on their global journeys!

Felicia Sanders has been working 30 years on conservation efforts for a wide diversity of bird species. Felicia joined the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in 2001, and leads South Carolina’s Seabird and Shorebird Projects. Her primary tasks are promoting conservation of important sites for nesting and migrating coastal birds, surveying seabirds and shorebirds, and partnering with universities to research life histories. She is a coauthor on numerous scientific publications, and has traveled to the Arctic 5 times to participate in shorebird research projects. Felicia went to graduate school at Clemson University, majoring in biology. Last year she was awarded the Biologist of the Year by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, whose members include 15 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Beyond our Backyard – Pitt Street Causeway and Fort Moultrie

Register Today!

Google Map: Pitt St Causeway to Co-op and Fort Moultrie

Pitt Street Causeway in Mount Pleasant is a small park with limited parking and no facilities, but it is worth a visit at any season. Almost any species of shorebird occurring along the South Carolina coast might be present on the mud flats here (especially at low tide). The marshes and salt creeks on the north side of the causeway are good for any salt marsh species, including all of the marsh-loving sparrows. You also have a good view of Charleston Harbor.

When SIB visited this site in 2019, we observed 41 species. The causeway is accessible for those with mobility issues. Once we are done at Pitt Street, those who are interested will go for lunch at The Co-op at 2019 Middle Street.

After lunch, SIB will return to Fort Moultrie and the Sullivan’s Island Nature Trail. In September, we saw 62 species on our visit. The season will be different, offering a different variety of birds. This portion of the walk will include walks over uneven paths.

Participants may opt only the morning at Pitt Street or both. If you wish to only do Fort Moultrie, we ask you just let us know and provide your own transportation.

Be sure to bring binoculars, camera, hats, sunscreen, bug repellant, snacks and water.

Friday, January 28, 2022 8:30am – 4:00 pm (roundtrip from Seabrook Island)

  • Leave Seabrook Real Estate: 8:30 am
  • Bird Pitt Street Causeway: 9:30 am – 11:30 am
  • Lunch: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
  • Bird Fort Moultrie and Sullivan’s Island Nature Trail: 1:30 – 3:30pm

Location: Meet at Real Estate Parking lot at 8:30 am to carpool to Pitt St in Mount Pleasant with start there at 9:30am with of low tide being around 10:30.
Max: 12
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests

If you are not yet a 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website: or we request a $5 donation to SIB.

Once you are a member, please register no later than Wednesday January 26, 2022. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior the event. 

Up Close & Personal with Eastern Bluebirds

You may have read the recent article regarding the winter behaviors of Eastern Bluebirds. Today, I want to tell you about the nifty gift I gave my mom for Christmas.

My parents live on Johns Island just 25 minutes from our home on Seabrook Island. A couple years ago SIB member Carl Voelker was helping his grandson make bluebird nest houses and my mom, Susanne, was thrilled to have Carl install one in her backyard. In each of the past two years, she has watched while three broods of young were raised and fledged!

As the holidays approached, we came up with the perfect gift for her – a camera to watch the birds from the inside of the birdhouse. I searched the internet for possible options, and selected a product made by Green Backyard. This company has a number of different products including houses, feeders, and cameras for birds and other wildlife. The kit I chose included a cedar birdhouse with a 38mm (1.5″) opening along with a waterproof outdoor WiFi camera. I had decided to purchase their box as it is designed with an added “window” to allow for illumination and it is structured to easily install the camera to the “ceiling” of the box.

Before buying this camera, I verified two things:

  1. Strong WiFi signal at the site it would be placed to connect to my parent’s home WiFi router.
  2. Availability of power using the included 10 meter (~32.8 feet) long power cord, which I plugged into an outdoor extension cord, to reach the exterior GFCI outlet .

I ordered the kit directly from Green Backyard and it arrived within about 10 days. The camera and birdhouse were fairly easy to install. I placed the camera inside of the birdhouse as directed, then placed the box on the pole replacing my mom’s original birdhouse. I ran the power cable and extension to the GFCI outlet. Next, I installed the iCSee app on my phone to activate and configure the camera to the home WIFi router. I inserted the memory card (not included) into the SD card slot and sealed it with a sticker (provided).

(Photos: Top Left – equipment for camera installation; Middle Left – left side of birdhouse; Bottom Left – right side of birdhouse showing removable panel (translucent) for illumination; Right – birdhouse after final installation.)

Both video and audio is transmitted wirelessly via WiFi to your router, allowing you to watch live feeds from anywhere using a smartphone, tablet or PC.

I set the option to send each of us a notification when there is movement at the box (see example). This is triggered when a bird enters or even if there is a sudden change of lighting or significant movement with wind. When you open the app, you can view the live feed and take photos or video that are saved on your app and can be downloaded to your device.

The great news for my mom is that her Eastern Bluebirds entered the new box within a day! Almost every morning we are notified and watch a male and female enter and check out the box, just as Bob Mercer described in his article. We can’t wait for when the nest building begins in another 6-8 weeks, followed by the laying of eggs!

Watch and listen to this brief video of both the male and female as they enter and explore the birdhouse.

You can learn more about the product I purchased or buy it by clicking the links below. We are all very happy with it, but I encourage you to do your own research if you are interested to install a camera at your home. (I have no affiliation or relationship with the supplier of this product and did not receive any compensation for my review.)

Ask SIB: Eastern Bluebird Winter Behavior

On January 9, 2021, Andy wrote SIB, “Today we saw maybe half dozen blue birds and one was sitting on the entry hole.  Isn’t it early for them to be nesting?  Has the warm weather put them off schedule?”

Eastern Bluebird – photo by Bob Mercer

The questions are relatively easy to answer. Yes, it is too early for them to be nesting, so they are not “off schedule” due to the weather. As usual, the questions lead to another question; what are the birds doing?

Since Eastern Bluebirds are year-round residents in our area, one can watch the full range of behaviors. During the winter months, bluebirds can gather in flocks of up to 20 birds. These flocks consist of one or more family units. In really cold weather, a flock of bluebirds may all cram into a single cavity, presumably for shared body warmth. Pair bonding for bluebirds can happen anytime between November and March.

This photo of an Eastern Bluebird entering the box and the female watching perfectly captures some of the courtship behavior–wing droop tail spread. Photo by Nancy Brown

During the courtship and nesting period, the flocking behavior disappears. Once a pair settles on a territory, they work hard to drive away all competitors including their siblings. 

It is difficult to know exactly what Andy observed, but one can make an educated guess. Since he saw a half dozen birds, he observed a winter flock. The bird sitting at the nesting hole most likely was a male bird checking out the box for its potential. 

Once a male makes a choice, he will then attempt to attract a mate or to solidify his relationship with his current mate. According to the Cornel Lab of Ornithology website Birds of the World, the male goes through a very predictable pattern of behavior. The male institutes a nesting demonstration display where he perches at a hole holding nesting material with his wings drooping and his tail spread wide. He looks around, presumably to make sure his intended is paying attention, and then look in the hole. The next step is to rock back and forth into and out of the hole before going in the cavity. Once in the cavity, he will stick his head out still holding the nesting material. Leaving the material in the cavity, he then hops out near the hole and does a wing waving display. The female entering the box cements the pair bond. 

People with bluebird boxes they can view, or who have cameras trained on a box, may be lucky enough to watch this behavioral sequence. 

Nesting on Seabrook Island usually begins around the first of March. The Seabrook Island Birders sponsor a bluebird box monitoring program. Volunteers have a route where they check a series of boxes once a week to monitor if birds use the boxes and nesting success of failure. Anyone interested in helping is encouraged to contact the Seabrook Island Birders.

Be sure to read tomorrow’s article discussing the installation and monitoring of a birdhouse with an outside WIFI camera!

Gowaty, P. A. and J. H. Plissner (2020). Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

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