SIB “Bird of the Week” – Confusing Big White Birds

This is an exciting time of year at Seabrook Island as we see many “Big White Birds” starting their courtships and nesting throughout the island.  But are you still trying to figure out the difference between a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret and a White Ibis?  Have you ever seen a Snowy Egret to only be later told it was a Cattle Egret or an immature Little Blue Heron?

We have found a great article for you to read!  It is an excerpt from Better Birding: Tips, Tools & Concepts for the Field, by George Armistead and Brian Sullivan (Princeton University Press).  The new book is not a field guide—it’s an exploration of the fine points of identification that anyone can learn with some patient study of similar species. The full volume contains 24 chapters, each focusing on a different group, from sparrows to swans and hawks to cormorants.

Take a few minutes to read the article and review the pictures here!

Another resource to review is our own SIPOA Wildlife Portal page focused on this same subject.  Click here for a quick comparison.

We really think these two sites will help you feel more comfortable next time you see those “Big White Birds.”

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.

Update Gallery with pictures and range map


SIB “Bird of the Week” – American Redstart

American Redstart  –  Setophaga ruticilla
Length:  5.25″;  Wingspan:  7.75″;  Weight:  0.29 oz.

American Redstart (male) - Ed Konrad
American Redstart (male) – Ed Konrad

While the American Redstart is a wood-warbler and part of the Parulidae Family, it is the only warbler species in the Setophage Genus.  David Sibley, in his Field Guide to Birds index, does not list it among the warblers, but alone under Redstart.  They do migrate, in treed habitats, along the SC coast line.  My only sightings have been in New York and Massachusetts.  This is a very colorful, mid-size warbler with what The Cornell Lab of Ornithology calls “a fairly long, expressive tail.”

An adult male could be described as a Halloween bird.  It has a black head and back with splashes of orange on the wing tops, along the sides under the wings, and, in a unique pattern, on the tail.  The colors are similar to the Baltimore Oriole, but in a very different pattern of orange on a bird that is 3.5 inches longer than the redstart and weighs 1.2 ounces.  An adult female American Redstart has a gray head and the color splashes are more yellow.   The larger Blackburnian Warbler also displays orange, but only on the throat.

Typically, warbler behavior is to always be on the move.  This makes it difficult to differentiate among those of similar coloration.  The flashier redstart is incredibly active as it darts about, colorful tail fanned. to flush insects from their hiding places.  The insects are then chased in short flights and plucked from the air.  Their winter habitat (Central America, Cuba, and the northern countries of South America) is tropical and at lower to middle elevations of woodlands.  In migration, they tend to stay within protected treed areas as opposed to the open coastal plain.  The breeding habitat, which extends from inland South Carolina to Canada, would normally be somewhat open wooded areas of primarily deciduous trees.

The Seabrook Island chart of bird species shows the American Redstart as an occasional visitor.  Our live oaks would seem to fit their habitat preference.  Local experience indicates there’s a better chance of observing them from late August through October (fall migration).  We saw them at Palmetto lake last fall and SIBirder Joleen Ardaiolo saw one at the lakehouse last week.

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

Article submitted by:  George Haskins originally Oct, 2016(reposted)

Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad

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.

Learning Together-Crooked Oaks Golf Course

Learning Together on Crooked Oaks Golf Course

Monday August, 22, 2022 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Birding on Crooked OaksGolf 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 Crooked Oaks 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 spring/summer, we can also expect to see Eastern Kingbirds, Great-crested Flycatchers, Orchard Orioles, Summer Tanagers, Mississippi Kites 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.

Please complete the information below to REGISTER no later than Friday prior to the trip.  All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on the Sunday, 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.

Ask SIB: What can we do about gulls?


Question: The gulls seem especially aggressive this year at Pelican’s Nest. Does SIB have any suggestions what Seabrook Island Club can do to ease the situation? – Mitchell Laskowitz, Seabrook Island Club Manager

Earlier this summer, Mitchell Laskowitz reached out to Seabrook Island Birders asking for any humane ideas we had to help with the gulls at Pelican’s Nest. He had already done an internet search and talked to other restaurant managers about possible solutions so he already had an initial action plan defined.

As a Seabrook Island Club member, I had seen the Laughing Gulls swarm over the rocks outside the nest, waiting for a chance for an evening snack. As soon as a patron turned away, the gulls would attack sandwiches, fries or anything else that tempted them.

SIB was unable to provide any new suggestions to Mitchell other than suggest people with food near the pool would need to take steps as well as the ones he proposed for Pelican’s Nest. Obviously, people should also be discouraged from actively feeding the gulls. The steps taken at the Pelican’s Nest include:

  • Installed additional wires to deter gulls from entering dining area
  • Netting was placed between the Sunrails
  • Metal Prongs (similar to icicles on a Christmas tree) were hung below wires
  • High Frequency Noise Transmitters that can be heard by gulls but not humans were acquired
  • Added fake owls to roof of Pelican’s Nest
  • Added signs on each table to educate patrons regarding what they can do to help:
    • Cover your plate with a napkin when finished eating
    • Dispose of garbage properly in lidded bins
    • Do not leave food unattended

My recent visits to Pelican’s Nest has shown fewer aggressive gulls. It could be the season is changing, but I think it also has a lot to do with the steps the Club has taken to humanely address the problem.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Red-headed Woodpecker

(submitted by:  Judy Morr)resubmitted by SI

Is Woody Woodpecker the only woodpecker you know you can identify for sure?

There are actually 6 different woodpeckers seen on Seabrook Island:

  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Red Bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (common only in winter)
  • Red-headed Woodpecker (seen on Seabrook Island if you know where to look)

Cornell Lab states “Several species of woodpeckers have red on their heads. Only one of these is named Red-headed Woodpecker,” and we will profile them first.

Red-headed Woodpecker – Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Length:  7.5-9.1″; Wingspan: 16.5″; Weight: 2-3.2 oz.

Red-headed Woodpecker - Ed Konrad
Red-headed Woodpecker – Ed Konrad

The gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker is so boldly patterned it’s been called a “flying checkerboard,” with an entirely crimson head, a snow-white body, and half white, half inky black wings.  These birds don’t act quite like most other woodpeckers: they’re adept at catching insects in the air, and they eat lots of acorns and beech nuts, often hiding away extra food in tree crevices for later.  This magnificent species has declined severely in the past half-century because of habitat loss and changes to its food supply.

A Red-headed Woodpecker has an unmarked black back with white wing tips.  Their head is completely red including it’s cheeks and throat.

Red-headed Woodpeckers eat insects, fruits, and seeds.  Overall, they eat about one-third animal material (mostly insects) and two-thirds plant material.  Their insect diet includes beetles, cicadas, midges, honeybees, and grasshoppers.  Red-headed Woodpeckers eat seeds, nuts, corn, berries and other fruits; they sometimes raid bird nests to eat eggs and nestlings; they also eat mice and occasionally adult birds.

Red-headed Woodpeckers typically catch aerial insects by spotting them from a perch on a tree limb or fencepost and then flying out to grab them. They forage on the ground and up to 30 feet above the forest floor in summer, whereas in the colder months they forage higher in the trees.  In winter Red-headed Woodpeckers catch insects on warm days, but they mostly eat nuts such as acorns, beech nuts, and pecans.  Red-headed Woodpeckers cache food by wedging it into crevices in trees or under shingles on houses.  They store live grasshoppers, beech nuts, acorns, cherries, and corn, often shifting each item from place to place before retrieving and eating it during the colder months.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are considered Occasional to Rare on Seabrook. Populations appear to be declining.  Current tree care usually removes dead stubs or stumps used for nests and they compete with starlings, other woodpeckers and kestrels for nest cavities. Blue Jays and starlings steal their caches.  They find creosote-coated utility poles lethal for their young.  And to top it off, they don’t use bird houses.

That said, you can find Red-headed Woodpeckers on Seabrook but count yourself lucky each time.  Look for them on trunks and branches along the inner streets and golf cart pathways through the island.  The most recent siting was at Caw Caw Interpretive Center on August 11 th

They are potential breeders on the island.

A group of woodpeckers has many collective nouns, including a “descent”, “drumming” and “gatling” of woodpeckers.

(See the range map following the photographs below.)

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

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.

Ask SIB: Why is Northern Cardinal’s head bald?

Question: Is this a Northern Cardinal? If so, why does its head look so small and its beak so large? – SIB member Lesley Gore

Answer: This question was also answered in Bird Watcher’s Digest. They say:

Soon after nesting season ends, many birds replace their feathers. Songbirds generally lose and regrow a few feathers at a time, so molt is hardly noticeable.

But some birds, especially northern cardinals and blue jays, can lose all their head feathers at one time—a catastrophic molt. Not all cardinals or blue jays do this, but a significant number do, and it’s considered healthy and normal. A week later, feathers will start to grow, and in a month, the bird’s crest will return and be perfectly normal and regal once again.

“Bald” birds could also be young individuals with head feathers still developing, or they could be the victims of avian feather mites that eat the feathers and cause a bird to “go bald.” The mites exist on a bird in the only place it cannot preen itself—on the head.

This commonly occurs in late summer and has been recorded on other species as well. We notice the bald cardinals more readily because they are common, resident (non-migratory) birds that come to our bird feeders. The mites are perfectly natural, not caused by diet, and relatively harmless, unless the bird is in an otherwise-weakened state.

A bald bird usually isn’t anything to worry about, and it’s kind of fun to see a bird’s naked skin and ear holes, isn’t it?

Shorebird videos now available for viewing

The Seabrook Island Birders Shorebird Stewards and the Kiawah Shorebird Stewards have worked together to share educational opportunities. Spring 2022, Bette Popillo, Kiawah Shorebird Steward Program Coordinator, arranged a wonderful set of talks given by four prominent biologists who work with shorebirds and seabirds.

We have collected the links to those talks on a Shorebird Video page on the Seabrook Island Birders web site. This provides a single reference for stewards (and others) to bookmark and review the valuable information that was presented. We’ve also included the artistry of Pam Cohen, a Kiawah photographer who has fallen in love with Red Knots and Bob Mercer’s “Shorebird Identification” presentation.

The five links on this new page are:

  • Abby Sterling, PhD: “Busy Beaches after Red Knots: Supporting Our Nesting Shorebirds”
  • Nolan Schillerstrom: “ The Sassy Seabird:Least Terns
  • Fletcher Smith, “Red Knot Research in the Southeast
  • Janet Thibault, “Black Skimmers: Creatures of Edges
  • Pam Cohen, “Red Knots: A Story of Migration and Survival
  • Bob Mercer: “Shorebird Identification on Seabrook Island

SIB’s Article for the August The Seabrooker

In case you don’t receive it, or haven’t had a chance to read it yet, we hope you will enjoy The Seabrooker’s August 2022 SIB article. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) contributed a full page article on Page 4! The stories this month feature:

Seabrook Birds…Through the Lens – Learn more about Ed Konrad’s experiences photographing birds.

Thanks to author and photographer Ed Konrad. Ed also serves as our graphic designer!

Charleston Audubon Fund Raiser

Some SIB members recently received an email that may be of interest to other members. It came from the Charleston Audubon and Natural History Society.

We need help for McAlHany Nature Preserve!!!!

Join us for a screening of Purple Haze, a conservation film about Purple Martins, a species completely reliant on humans for survival! Limited space, get your tickets today!

Terrace Theater
1956d Maybank Hwy, Charleston, SC 29412

7:30 pm-9:30 pm.

We’ll have door prizes as well, bring your friends and help us support our on the ground conservation work!


Join SIB to Sit, Sip and See at Palmetto Lake

Monday, August 15 @ 7:00pm
Location: Picnic Table at the back of Palmetto Lake near the Playground
Max: 20
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation to SIB for guests

Register Now

Please join Seabrook Island Birders for an evening of birding and socializing with your favorite beverage at Palmetto Lake. During the hot summer months birds are more active in the early morning and early evening. We thought that this would be a great location to gather and sit and let the birds come to us. At this location, near the playground, we can relax and watch the herons and egrets fly into their now favorite roosting area. It is mesmerizing to observe the different groups fly into the lake area and then maneuver into their spot. There are a few places to sit at the picnic table, but you will probably want to bring a chair in order to get the best view. There will be SIB members available to carry your chair to our location. Birds that we should see coming into the rookery are Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, and White Ibis. We could additionally hear or see woodpeckers, hawks, and passerines.

This is a BYOB and BYOSnacks event. If you are not an experienced birder, this is the perfect opportunity to get some tips on using binoculars and phone apps, and identifying species and bird calls.

As always bring your binoculars and hats. No sunscreen required at this event, but you might want to bring bug repellent just in case.

Register no later than Sunday, August 14th . All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Monday morning, August 15th.

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