Shorebird Stewards: Myth Busters

In 2022, we had 19 volunteers to be Shorebird Stewards on Seabrook Island. These people spent a total of 170 hours on the beach and most importantly, interacted with 746 people. We are planning an even better year this year. If you want to be part of the fun, send an email to

Some myths/concerns were heard from earlier communications. We wanted to address these concerns:

Myth: You have to know a lot about shorebirds to participate.
Response: Stewards educate people about ways to reduce human impact on birds, not bird identification!

Myth: Shorebird Stewards will be talking to people who already know all about shorebirds.
Response: Every year new people come to the beach to see dolphins or turtles
but don’t know the shorebird story. In 2022, 66% of the people who stopped by the Shorebird Steward Station were visitors to Seabrook Island. Stewards ask beachgoers to respect the shorebirds as they are feeding in the surf or resting at the inlet by not approaching the birds too closely and by walking around them. The message- “Share the Beach-Give The Birds Space”

Myth: I need to approach people to tell them about shorebirds
Response: Shorebird Stewards are trained to respond to people who approach them rather than approaching people who are not interested.

Myth: Shorebird Stewards must enforce the Seabrook Island beach rules.
Response: The stewards program asks you to be a volunteer to help educate people about the importance of our tiny piece of the world to the shorebirds that visit. This is not an enforcement effort, but an educational effort. Contact numbers for Beach Patrol and Seabrook Island Security are available to be contacted if a need arises.

Myth: Everyone knows the yellow “sanctuary” area on North Beach is to protect the sea turtles. Why do the Shorebird Stewards set up near that area?
Response: The area within the signs varies by season and the fluctuating tides. This is a “critical habitat area”. In winter, it is a shorebird roosting area where the birds may rest and conserve energy. In summer, the area may move and is where endangered species nest on scrapes in the sand. Shorebird Stewards help educate people about these uses. Loggerhead Turtles may go into the area to nest and Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol works with the Shorebird Stewards to minimize impact to the birds while also protecting the turtle nests.

Myth: I’d have to be on the beach every day, all day
Response: Shifts are in 2 hour blocks. Each person signs up for as many (or as few) shifts as they wish.

Myth: I have to complete a lot of paperwork regarding my time as a steward
Response: Our website allows you to self-schedule your shifts and makes it very easy to complete a report of your experience after each shift.

Myth: I’d have to be by myself for my shift
Response: Usually 2 people are on the beach together. You can find your own partner or you can register as a single and another single can register to join you.

Myth: People are abrasive to the Stewards
Response: The Shorebird Stewards report that 98% of the interactions are positive. Training includes how to respond to negative people.

Myth: Only children want to talk to Shorebird Stewards
Response: 89% of the interactions were with adults but often, children bring their adults so they can all hear about the birds.

Myth: I have to have a scope to participate
Response: A scope is proved to the volunteers who wish to use it.

Myth: I have to lug a scope, signs and other equipment to the inlet to complete my shift
Response: A wagon is provided for the shorebird stewards to get their equipment to the beach. Stewards do not need to walk all the way to the inlet, they can set up anywhere between Boadwalk#1 and the inlet. The provided equipment includes signs, the scope and even a chair with an umbrella. Stewards are asked to provide their own water and sun screen.

Myth: I can’t participate as I’m only on Seabrook for part of the season
Response: Although the season is from March through May (with possibility for expansion through nesting season), you schedule to volunteer based upon your availability and when you are on Seabrook.

Myth: The Shorebird Stewards are on the beach all summer in the mid-day heat
Response: The peak season is in the spring when the Red Knots are migrating through. Therefore, the season is over before the real South Carolina heat begins.

Myth: I was unavailable on February 24 for training so I can’t be a Steward
Response: If you are still interested in becoming a Shorebird Steward, send us an email ( and we’ll schedule personalized training that works for you.

SIB “Bird of the week” – Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech OwlMegascops asio
Length: 6.3-9.8 in. Weight: 4.3-8.6 oz.
Wingspan: 18.9-24 in.

If you find yourself in a wooded area at night, don’t be too alarmed if you hear a haunting whinny floating across the night air. No, it’s not a ghost horse, it’s likely coming from a bird no bigger than a pint sized glass – an Eastern Screech Owl. In fact, hearing this owl is probably easier than seeing him as they’re well camouflaged and hide out in nooks and crannies of trees during the day. Your best chance of seeing one is to keep your eyes out for smaller birds causing quite the commotion. Blue Jays, Chickadees and Titmice will often mob a screech-owl (or other raptor), swooping around it with noisy calls. This can be enough of a nuisance to the owl to make him move on, and it alerts other birds to the predator’s presence.

They have two color-morphs, rufous (reddish-brown) and gray, with the rufous coloration making up one-third, and more common in the East. No other North American owl has such distinctive plumage differences. They have small ear tufts and yellow eyes, strongly streaked upperparts and finely barred and streaked underparts, giving them their excellent camouflage.

Eastern Screech Owls are found wherever trees are, from the Rocky Mountains to Canada to Mexico. Because they readily habituate to people, Eastern Screech-Owls sometimes roost and nest in human-made cavities such as bird boxes. They nest in holes and cavities but never dig a cavity themselves. They depend on tree holes opened up and enlarged by woodpeckers, squirrels or wood rot. Because old, dead or dying trees are often removed from yards, they’re sometimes short of nest sites and have been known to nest in wood piles, mailboxes, or crates left on the ground. They’re fearless defenders of their nest and will even strike unsuspecting humans on the head as they pass nearby at night.

Eastern Screech Owl pairs are usually monogamous and remain together for life. Nesting occurs between March and June. Females incubate 3-5 eggs for 30 days, feed nestlings for nearly as long, and then tend the fledglings for 8-10 weeks. Their diet is the most varied of any North American owl, to include a variety of songbirds, mice, rats, squirrels and rabbits, and a surprisingly large number of earthworms, insects, frogs and lizards. When prey is plentiful Screech-Owls store extra food in tree holes for as long as four days.

Small but mighty, Eastern Screech-Owls are mainly active at night, though they often hunt at dawn or dusk. They sit and wait in the trees for prey to pass below, then pounce from perches six to ten feet off the ground. In addition, suburban screech-owls often survive better than their rural cousins, as suburbs provide more prey and fewer predators. Their small size, territorial tolerance, and broadly varied diet make this owl a successful survivor.

Screech Owl at Brookgreen Gardens – Susan Markum

Screech Owls are on Seabrook Island but as stated earlier, are rarely seen. A pair raised their young in a tree near the bird feeders at Camp St. Christopher several years ago. One was heard prior to a walk in the Maintenance area but wasn’t seen. Below is a picture taken on a visit to Brookgreen Gardens in February 2023.

To read more, go to:

Submitted by Gina Sanders
Photos from National Audubon Society and The Cornell Lab All About 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.

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