SIB “Bird of the Week” – Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Length:  5.5″; Wingspan: 9.25″; Weight: 0.43 oz.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Ed Konrad
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Ed Konrad

Yellow-rumped Warblers are one of the most common warblers in North America and abundant on Seabrook Island from fall through spring.  The Yellow-rumped Warbler is sometimes referred to as “Butter Butt” due to its bright yellow rump.  It was formally called Myrtle Warbler in the East because it is the only Warbler able to digest the wax-coated berries of the Wax Myrtles.  On Seabrook, Butter Butts are our most obvious and widely distributed winter Warbler.  They arrive in November and depart in April.  You will see them in small flocks in open woodlands and brushy habitats.  This bird constantly “chirps” which is a contact call that keeps the flock together.

The Yellow-rumped is medium-sized warbler with a long narrow tail and stout dark bill.  In winter, the females, males and young are a paler streaked gray-brown, have bright yellow rumps and usually yellow side patches.  In the spring before they leave Seabrook Island, the male is dark blue-gray upper parts; white throat, breast and belly are white and heavily streaked with black.  Its rump, crown and small area at the sides of the breast are yellow.  There are two broad white wing bars. The female is brownish with the similar patterns.

In winter, Yellow-rumped warblers can be found in open pine and pine-oak forests and dunes where bayberries are common.  During this time they mainly eat berries and fruits, particularly wax-coated berries of bayberries and wax myrtles.  This bird has unique gastrointestinal traits that allow it to subsist on this unusual food source.  This makes them a very winter hardy bird allowing them to winter farther north than other warblers.

In the spring/summer these warblers are found in mature coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous woodlands feeding on insects including caterpillars, ants, leaf beetles, grasshoppers and spiders.  You might see them acting like Flycatchers as they leap off perches flying up to catch a passing insect.  They also eat wild seeds from beach grasses and goldenrod and may come to feeders to eat sunflower seeds, raisins, peanut butter and suet.

Yellow-rumped warblers are active and noisy birds.  They constantly chatter as they forage.  Their flight is agile and swift and the birds often call as they change direction.  Their yellow rump and white tail patches are very noticeable while flying.  Their song is a loose trill, but rising in pitch or dropping toward end and the call note is a loud “chek.”

A group of warblers has many collective nouns, including a “bouquet”, “confusion”, “fall”, and “wrench” of warblers.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology – All About Birders: Yellow-rumped Warbler and Birds of Seabrook Island: Yellow-rumped Warbler

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.

(click on a photo to view as a slide show)

SIB Travels: Hammock Coastal Birding Festival

As previously reported, several SIB members are always on the look-out for birding festivals. The Hammock Coastal Birding Festival recently was brought to our attention. This inaugural festival is scheduled for the weekend of February 10 – 12, 2023 in nearby Georgetown.

The festival includes speakers plus opportunities to bird Brookgreen Gardens, Huntington Beach, Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center and Hobcaw Barony. It should be a good weekend.

Although this is NOT a Seabrook Island Birders activity or sponsored event, we think other members may be interested in the event. Several members have already registered. Let SIB know if you plan to attend as we can share car pool arrangements.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Join SIB for Wine and Backyard Birding at Marsh Hen

Join SIB for wine and backyard birding at the home of Carole and Rick Heilman on 2335 Marsh Hen  Dr., Thursday, November 3, 2022 at 3:00p-5:00p. Their home is a beautiful large wooded lot that has many songbird visitors. She sees the Wild Turkeys there too! She has an elaborate bird feeding system set up on 2 sides of the yard with a nice seating area also. There will be wine and light snacks served for those who want, with a outside deck and inside porch for bird viewing. Come in from the front door.

As always, be sure to bring your water, binoculars, hats and sunscreen.  Please practice safe distancing and wear masks if not vaccinated.

If you are not yet a 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $15 by following the instructions on our website:  Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $10 at the time of the activity.

Please complete the information below to register no later than Tuesday, November 1 by 10 am.  All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on November 2 .  


Birding Beyond Our Backyard – Bear Island and Donnelly WMA

Sunday October 30, 2022 6:00 am– 4:00 pm (sunrise 7:35am)
Trip to Bear Island & Donnelly WMA
Location:  Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Car Pool
Max: 12
Cost:  free to members, $10 per guest

Register Now

If you have never been to Bear Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) or to Donnelly WMA, you won’t want to miss this opportunity – it’s well worth the 60-mile one-way trip!  Part of the ACE Basin, this area is perfect habitat for birds with ponds, rivers, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, mudflats mixed pine-hardwood forest and farmland.  Most of the birding is done by car with stops to get out and take short walks for viewing.  Bear Island closes for hunting from November 1 – February 9 each year, so this is the last chance to visit before spring.  We hope the winter waterfowl will have returned including the Tundra Swan.  Each person should bring their own lunch, snacks and beverages, as there are no restaurants in the area.  Also be sure to bring sun block, bug spray, a hat, binoculars, camera and a scope if you have one.  For those interested, a stop at a restaurant will be made on the return trip to renourish and recap the day.

If you are not yet a 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $15 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 $10.

Once you are a member, register no later than Thursday October 27, 2022.  All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior the event.  If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Length:  7.1-8.7″; Wingspan: 13.4-15.7″; Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Ed Konrad
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.

A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker has a red cap but not the nape. It has a striped face and a prominent white stripe on side. It’s black bib, patterned underparts also distinguish it from the red-bellied woodpecker.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

As the name indicates, sapsuckers rely on sap as a main food source. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker makes two kinds of holes in trees to harvest sap. Round holes extend deep in the tree and are not enlarged. The sapsucker inserts its bill into the hole to probe for sap. Rectangular holes are shallower, and must be maintained continually for the sap to flow. The sapsucker licks the sap from these holes, and eats the cambium of the tree too. New holes usually are made in a line with old holes, or in a new line above the old. Then, after the tree leafs out, the sapsucker begins making shallower, rectangular wells in the phloem, the part of the trunk that carries sap down from the leaves. This sap can be more than 10 percent sugar. These phloem wells must be continually maintained with fresh drilling, so the sap will continue to flow. Sapsuckers tend to choose sick or wounded trees for drilling their wells, and they choose tree species with high sugar concentrations in their sap, such as paper birch, yellow birch, sugar maple, red maple, and hickory. They drill wells for sap throughout the year, on both their breeding and wintering grounds. In addition to sap, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers also eat insects (mostly ants) and spiders, gleaning them from beneath a tree’s bark like other woodpeckers. And at times they perch at the edge of a tree branch and launch after flying insects to capture them in midair, like a flycatcher. Sapsuckers are also attracted to orchards, where they drill wells in the trees and eat fruit.

Yellow-belled Sapsuckers perch upright on trees, leaning on their tails like other woodpeckers. They feed at sapwells—neat rows of shallow holes they drill in tree bark. They lap up the sugary sap along with any insects that may get caught there. Sapsuckers drum on trees and metal objects in a distinctive stuttering pattern. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers live in both hardwood and conifer forests up to about 6,500 feet elevation. Occasionally, sapsuckers visit bird feeders for suet.

Holes created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
Holes created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Sapsuckers are common on Seabrook in winter but are less noisy and may be less obvious than other woodpeckers. They are “common but inconspicuous.” Look for their “wells” – drilled holed lined up around the trunk and marking trees to see where they feed.

Check out this cool YouTube video of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker eating from the already drilled holes in a tree:

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

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr/ resubmitted 10/2022
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-Ocean Winds Golf Course

Learning Together on Ocean Winds Golf Course

Monday, October 24,2022  8:30 am – 10:30 am
Birding on Crooked Oaks 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; $10 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 $15 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 $10.

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.

Taxonomy Updates Coming Soon!

For those of us who maintain a list of birds we’ve seen, the title above sounded scary. When I first received the notice on eBird that there was to be a 2022 update I wondered what changes were going to be made. I’d heard for years there were proposals that Yellow-rumped Warblers’ two sub-species (Myrtle and Audubon) may revert to their individual species. Was this one of the changes in 2022? What else was being considered?

eBird published on October 15 their article titled Taxonomy Updates Coming Soon. Based upon this article, I don’t think there will be any changes to my life list. The highlighted changes are the addition of 5 species: Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis), Red-Masked Parakeet (Psittacara erythrogenys), Lilac-crowned Parrot (Amazona finschi), Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush (Monticola saxatilis), Chihuahuan Meadowlark (Sturnella lilianae). The last one of these is a split from Eastern Meadowlark with the Chihuahuan Meadowlark being seen in areas of New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. Since I have yet to report any Meadowlarks in those areas, my list will remain unchanged.

Apparently there are some sequencing changes in the ABA Checklist but I have yet to find an article detailing those changes so at this time I don’t plan to update the Seabrook Island Birders Checklist.

Even though I don’t think the changes effect me, I plan to submit all my unsubmitted eBird lists prior to October 25 when eBird will automatically update any lists previously submitted (if needed). They have “warned” to “expect future updates to occur annually in October/November.” My Yellow-rumped Warblers may still be split in a future year….maybe one will be called “Butter Butt”. They have also stated “Stay tuned for more information about the 2022 Taxonomy Update, including a post on the eBird homepage summarizing all of the changes on the day of the update” but I’m not as “scared” of the changes as I was before I read the news release.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Ask SIB: Why is Pileated Woodpecker making a hole in the fall?

Pileated Woodpecker – Palmetto Lake – Nancy Brown

Question: Yesterday a male pileated woodpecker started working on the opening to one of our owl boxes. We assumed he wanted the opening larger to get in for some bugs. He worked on it for a few hours (till dusk) and then is back this morning and has made the opening larger. He now goes in and out, pecks a little in the box, but is back making the opening larger from the outside. I know this is not their normal nesting season, so wonder what he is doing! Thanks for any input. – Paula Adamson

Answer: I had a similar question a couple years ago when a Pileated Woodpecker was excavating a hole in a dead tree in the conservancy lot across the street in the fall.  I therefore knew the answer but had to find the source of my knowledge.  I’m not sure if it’s the same source, but the answer is the same.  In National Audubon’s BirdNote, the podcast Listen for Woodpeckers Making Their Winter Homes This Fall says

It turns out that some woodpecker species stay year round in the region where they nest, while others migrate south in winter. Those that remain through the colder months – well, it’s safe to say they’re not nesting now. No, these fall excavators are chiseling out roosting cavities, snug hollows where they’ll shelter during the cold nights of fall and winter.  

Many woodpeckers roost in such cavities, usually by themselves. Even the young, once they’re fledged, have to find their own winter quarters.

With woodpeckers, once the nights turn cold, it’s every bird for itself.

I found another article Animals in Fall: The Pileated Woodpecker published by Shadow Lake Nature Preserve in the state of Washington.  It states:

Have you ever seen small mounds of wood chips at the base of trees? If you live in the Pacific Northwest, during the fall season that tree is probably the new home of a Pileated Woodpecker! This species of woodpecker is non-migratory, meaning that it does not fly south for the winter. They excavate holes in several different trees that they will nest in throughout the cold winter.

I think it’s safe to say, your Pileated Woodpecker thinks your owl box would make a nice winter home.

– Judy Morr

Crab Bank rebuilding was a success!

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) biologists are celebrating the close of a successful shorebird and seabird nesting season on the newly restored Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary. Biologists documented over 500 nests over the season, marking the first time coastal birds nested on the small island in Charleston Harbor since its disappearance to erosion.

SCDNR biologists captured these clips over summer 2022 using game cameras to monitor nesting and predation on the island. Black skimmers and gull-billed terns are the two seabird species featured in these clips.

Crab Bank 2022 nesting highlights

You can read the complete news release here.

Learning Together on Bobcat and 6 Ladies Trail

Tuesday, October 18, 8:00 am – 10:00 am
Learning Together at Bobcat and Six Ladies Trails
Location:  Bobcat and Six Ladies Trails
Max:  12 
Cost: None for members; $10 donation for guests

Register Now

As the weather cools and mosquitos diminish, it is a great time for an outing to Bob Cat Trail with an extension to Six Ladies trail allows for viewing of some the birds that hang out at the beach then continue on to the shade of Six Ladies trail.

Along this trail we should see our local Eastern Towhee who likes to hang out at the Boardwalk 1 end of Bob Cat Trail.  Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Northern Cardinals and Gulls and Egrets should also be seen.  We also hope to see a Northern Harrier.  While on Six Ladies Trail, a stop at the picnic table looking over the marsh towards Creek Watch can get some raptors and egrets.  

As always, bring binocular/camera, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, snacks and water.  Feel free to bring your coffee and a breakfast bar to enjoy at the picnic table.

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 $10 donation to SIB.

Once you are a member, please register no later than Sunday October 16, 2022.  All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Monday October 17.

If you have additional questions about the program, please contact us by sending an email to:

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