Help on Shorebird identification

Shorebirds always challenge my identification skills. I decided it was time to review various material I’ve seen. I thought maybe the list could be beneficial to others even if it wasn’t all encompassing.

I started by adding this bookmark from Audubon to my birding backpack so I have it for quick reference:

I recently received an email from Audubon with a link to this article. It has some good overview information: Shorebirds 101: What to Look for When You Hit the Water

Bob Mercer has created the Field Guide to the Shorebirds of North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC. It is designed to be printed as a booklet. Printing is to be done double sided and flipped on short side. When done that way, the birds end up next to the description.

Seabrook Island Birders has also presented several shorebird programs that have been recorded which are available for watching at any time:

Janet Thibault: Seabrook’s Amazing Shorebirds!

Bob Mercer: Shorebird Identification on Seabrook Island, South Carolina

I hope these materials are helpful to you as they have been to me.

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

Update: Favorite Apps for Birding

Do you have a smart phone or a tablet?  Are you interested in learning more about birds or trying to identify a bird?  Why carry a heavy paper guidebook into the field or even around the house when you probably have a smart phone or tablet nearby!?!  Like with everything, there is an App for ANYTHING!  And more for birding seem to be added all the time.   Therefore, we decided to republish information on some of favorites of today.  (Note: We use Apple products so our experience is with the iOS versions.)

In this blog, we will focus on four apps, providing a brief summary.   Please use the links to learn more about each and to download to your device(s).   Most have tutorials available either in the app or on YouTube.  After you check the apps out, if you want more help or to share your experience, register for our app workshop to be held Tuesday January 25 at 4:00.

Merlin Bird ID

The first one I recommend to everyone, especially people new to birding, is called Merlin Bird ID.  Just answer five simple questions about a bird or upload a photo of a bird you are trying to identify, and Merlin will come up with a list of possible matches. Merlin offers quick identification help for beginning and intermediate bird watchers to learn about 650 of North America’s most common birds!  Cornell Lab of Ornithology created it in partnership with Birds in the Hand, LLC.  And the best part is it is FREE! (On my phone I have downloaded Bird Pack for Continental US and Canada and it takes about 2.5 GB of space).  Merlin also has the option to use a photo to help you identify a bird or the most recent addition is “Sound ID” which allows you to record a bird and it identifies the bird by comparing to its library of recordings.  It has the option to interface with your eBird account for personalized information.

Continue reading “Update: Favorite Apps for Birding”

Fall Migration has started!

When it’s 90 degrees in the shade, it’s hard to remember the birds are already preparing for winter and have started their migrations south. For those of us on Seabrook Island, this means we loose our summer residents, Painted Buntings, Great Crested Flycatchers, and Green Herons to name a few. Amoung those arriving will be Palm Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Northern Flickers. It is also a time when birds are flying through from their summer residences up north to as far south as South America. Many of the warblers are in this category.

The good news is all this coming and going means great birding opportunities. Since it’s hard for amateurs like to know when birds are coming through, I like to reference two web sites.

Close to home, Aaron Given publishes a daily blog of the birds they capture at the Kiawah Island Banding Stations. I know when these Kiawah banding stations are seeing a species, it’s a good chance they are on Seabrook as well. Since I don’t visit the site daily, it has a nice feature that allows me to page back to previous posts to see what has been captured on prior recent days. To learn more about the Kiawah Island Banding Station, visit the blog Aaron wrote for us last year.

Another helpful site can be used anywhere in the country. BirdCast is powered by Cornell Lab, Colorado State University and UMassAmhert. The site provides bird migration forecast maps that show predicted nocturnal migration 3 hours after local sunset and are updated every 6 hours. It also has a local migration alert tool to determine whether birds are passing overhead near your city tonight! This site doesn’t tell you which species are migrating but will give you an indication if there has been a recent influx of migrating birds.

Watch the Seabrook Island Birders blogs, activity page and calendar to see when the group will have organized activities during bird migration. You can also subscribe to the SIB Google Group. This group is then available for you to send an “impromptu” email asking others to join you in a search or other members would notify you when they are going out.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Nesting on Seabrook Island

In late July, a friend called asking if Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nest on Seabrook Island. She was pouring a glass of wine and saw a hummingbird hovering near a tree outside her kitchen window then spotted the nest in easy view. So the obvious answer is yes….Ruby-throated Hummingbirds breed between March and July. The female lays 2 eggs which are incubated for 10 to 14 days. The chicks leave the nest when they are 18 to 22 days old with the mother continuing to feed them until they are 22 to 25 days old.

We became frequent visitors to our friend’s kitchen with Dean taking photographs of mother hummingbird sitting on the nest and her feeding two young ones. Soon these babies will be fledging.

For more about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, read the blog below which was originally posted in April 2016.

Submitted by Judy Morr

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird:
Family – Trochilidae
Species – Archilochus colubris
Length: 3 – 3.75”; Wingspan: 4.25 – 4.5”; Weight: 0.1 oz

(Submitted by Ron Schlidge)

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Bob Hider
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Bob Hider

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only hummer known by most Easterners and has a range that covers most of eastern North America.  Both sexes have glittering green crown and upperparts, and the underparts are grayish to white.  Males have black faces and a deep red to orange-red throat or gorget.  The humming of its wings is clearly discernible from a distance.  Their wings beat up to 75 per second. 

They feed primarily on nectar but take some insects and spiders, also sap from sapsucker drill wells.  In courtship flight, males make a huge 180-degree arcs back and forth, emitting a buzzing sound at its lowest point.  Males often arrive on breeding grounds well ahead of females.  These birds are strongly attracted to the color red as are many other hummers. 

The nest of the hummingbird is very small and made from soft plant down, fireweed, milkweed thistles and leaves.  They are a solitary breeder and generally lay two white eggs the size of a pea with incubation 11 to 16 days by the female. Altricial young stay in nest 20 – 22 days and are fed by the female. They have 1-3 broods per year.

Ruby-throated Hummers feed on red columbine in spring; salvia, trumpet or coral honeysuckle, and bee balm later in the year. They also fed on jewelweed, phlox, petunias, lilies, trumpet creeper, Siberian peatree, nasturtium, cone-shaped red flowers and sugar water.

You can mix your own sugar water by using a  4:1 ratio of water to sugar (ex:  2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar).  Red food dyes added to sugar water may harm birds.  Always replace the sugar water in your feeders at least once a week and maybe more in the hot days of summer.

A group of Hummingbirds has many collective nouns, including a “bought”, “glittering”, “hover”, “shimmer” and a “tune” of hummingbirds.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are common on Seabrook in the summer. They can be seen over the beach, amid the dunes, and in the myrtles along the boardwalks.  They are also around the estuaries and edges wherever they may find nectar-producing plants and small insects.  If you have a home you might try a feeder – they will come.  A very few might spend the winter.  A feeder in winter might also attract other vagrant species such as the Rufous Hummingbird or Black-chinned Hummingbird.

(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.

Enormous flock of Whimbrel discovered on Deveaux Bank

Last night an announcement concerning Deveaux Bank was so special it was made at a special event held at the Charleston Museum to an audience filled with some of the state’s most notable naturalists. After years of monitoring and documentation, our backyard barrier island was found to be a stopover for tens of thousands of Whimbrels.

The largest-known flock of whimbrels was discovered roosting in coastal South Carolina. Andy Johnson/Cornell Lab of Ornithology/Provided

Read Post and Courier’s article about the announcement. The news release from SCDNR has even more information.

One question from the audience last night was “Where do the Whimbrel’s go during the day?” The answer was to neighboring beaches and marshes to hunt and eat. Seabrook Island Birders can attest to that. During the April 21 International Shorebird Survey on North Beach, Bob Mercer recorded 34 Whimbrel. That was considered a great number. Then on May 8, Aija Konrad reported 157 Whimbrel in the mudflats at the curve at Jenkins Point. During the May 31 International Shorebird Survey on North Beach, Mark Andrews reported 1 on the lagoon on North Beach. Most of the Whimbrels have now moved on to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

YOU’RE INVITED: On Tuesday, June 22 at 6 p.m., join the team who made the discovery at Deveaux for a free virtual screening and panel discussion. Click here to learn more and register: As you watch the video, keep in mind the challenges the photographers, DNR personnel and ornithologists had to endure to capture the video and data.

You can learn more about Whimbrels here.

Deveaux Bank Seabird Sanctuary is closed year-round above the high-water line, apart from areas designated by signs for limited recreational use (beaches on the ends of the island, facing inland). From March 15 through October 15, some of the island’s beaches are closed for seasonal nesting of coastal birds and are demarcated by fencing. Dogs and camping are prohibited year-round. If you see violators to these rules, contact SCDNR at 1-800-922-5431.

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