What Bird Makes this Sound?

Each spring, Seabrook Island Birders receive many requests for us to identify the bird that makes this sound. Even if you have never seen this bird, chances are if you live or spend time in the spring on Seabrook Island, you have heard him after dusk and before sunrise! The bird we are hearing is the Chuck-will’s-widow, a “cousin” to another in the Nightjar family, the Eastern Whip-poor-will who makes this sound.

Local Seabrook Island residents began hearing this spring migrant last week!  For me, it was just tonight while taking my pup out for her last walk of the night here where we live at Bohicket Marina Village. Where are you hearing this bird?

Below is a blog we have “recycled” from April 2, 2017, so you can learn more about the Chuck-will’s widow and the migration of these fascinating birds.

And remember, just email us or “Ask SIB” if you have questions about birds you are hearing or seeing!

Published April 2, 2017

On Friday, we asked if you could identify a bird by its song.  It was first reported on Seabrook Island early last Thursday morning by George Haskins.  The answer:  the Chuck-will’s-widow.  This bird winters as far south as Colombia, Venezuela and the Caribbean and breeds in pine, oak-hickory, and other forests of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. They tend to live in more open areas than the similar Whip-poor-will, which are not common here on Seabrook Island.

Chuck-will’s-widow – Flo Foley

Scientist continue to learn much about the migration of birds, especially with the advancement of technology such as using radar, acoustic, electronic and optical technologies. Spring migration starts as early as January and continues into June.  Birds generally take off shortly after sunset, some flying all night and landing just before dawn the next morning.  Others will fly nonstop for 60-100 hours as they flyover oceans and continents. Some nights there could be hundreds of millions of birds flying over North America.

Citizen Scientists like all of us are a great resource for migration information as we document bird sightings using the Audubon/Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: eBird.org.  This data is also available for anyone to view.  This link will open the eBird page to view the historical bird observations for all species by month for Charleston county.  For example, the Chuck-will’s-widow is shown below to arrive in April and is gone by the end of September.

Chuck-will’s-widow historical frequency sightings by month for Charleston County, SC from eBird.org

You can also drill down to view a map of locations where a bird has been documented, like the Chuck-will’s-widow map below.  Notice the red bubble was a sighting of a Chuck-will’s-widow documented by Aija Konrad on 3/31 near the tennis courts.

Chuck-will’s-widow map of sightings on Seabrook & Kiawah Island, SC from eBird.org

Another great website to learn more about bird migration, including a forecast each week for four geographic regions in the country, is Birdcast.info, a site created by Cornell.  Below is their forecast for the Chuck-will’s-widow for the Gulf Coast and Southeast and it looks like they are right on time!

Migrant Species





Rapid Influx






Last Departure

After Jun 30

Throughout April we will continue to share information related to bird migration including which birds are packing their bags to head north, which birds are arriving to breed and those who are just passing through and utilizing our island for rest and refueling.

In the meantime, check out this great article, Birdist Rule #70: Get Prepared for Spring Migration, by Nicholas Lund on the Audubon website.

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown

SIB’s Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest Trip

The wonderful presentation by Matt Johnson on March 27, 2019, on the Prothonotary Warbler inspired Seabrook Island Birders to join him on a walk. On April 11, 2019, ten SIB members joined Matt for a two hour tour (which became a three hour tour) of the boardwalk through the Four Hole Swamp in the Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest.

SIB Beidler 4 Jackie Brooks

It was a busy day at Beidler with our group, one from the Sierra Club, and a class of elementary school students. Matt and the staff did an excellent job of keeping the groups separate so we could enjoy the many sights and sounds.

The forest, essentially untouched by human hands consists of tall, stately trees. A raised boardwalk snakes through the wet environment of towering bald cypress, black gum, and the occasional pumpkin ash and red maple.


In addition to birds, the swamp provides a home for an array of reptiles and amphibians. Remarkably, because the water flows through the swamp, pesky insects are practically non-existent. A mayfly is a great indicator of clean water.

While the 32 species of birds that were identified were the focus of the day, our attention frequently wandered to everything and anything we could find. We had no clue where to look first.

We had not gone far before Matt spotted a cottonmouth sitting on a log. It proved to be the first of three. In addition we saw a brown water snake, a cottonmouth mimic.

At another spot, a palm sized fisher spider gave a brief show before dashing out of sight before anyone could get a picture. Later, a smaller one sat on the walkway rail giving everyone who wanted to a chance to study it carefully.

Also seen were several broad headed and five-lined skinks.

Matt also pointed out some man-made features—a dugout canoe and a camp site—that the staff had added to provide an educational opportunity to teach about the Maroon culture—escaped slaves that lived by hiding in the swamp.

The highlight of the day were the birds. As often happens in a tall forest, some of the birds, like the very vocal and secretive hooded warbler, proved difficult to see. We had nice and clear songs from birds like Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo, but never got our eyes on them.

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Swallow-tailed Kite only gave some of the group a good look.

That said, other birds performed. A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron posed for some pictures.

The Prothonotary Warblers lived up to expectation. We would see multiple birds some very close. Matt pointed out several unbanded birds and some birds with a whole string of bracelets.  We also spotted some exploring potential nesting sites and carrying nesting material.

The Prothonotary Warblers lived up to expectation. We would see multiple birds some very close. Matt pointed out several unbanded birds and some birds with a whole string of bracelets.  We also spotted some exploring potential nesting sites and carrying nesting material.

Michael Audette captured a series of pictures of a spider walking up and over a Prothonotary Warbler, a mistake because it ended up in the Prothonotary Warbler.

As we returned towards the visitor center, Matt commented that the only target bird we did not see or hear was the Barred Owl. Remarkably, within seconds after being teased by Michael about the money back guarantee, Matt spotted one only about 30 feet off the boardwalk and just above eye level. A great last bird for the day.

Many of the participants ate a picnic lunch with Matt where we talked more about the unique wonders of the Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest. What a delightful way to end another successful trip.

Article written by: Bob Mercer

Photographs credits:

  • Michael Audette’s Barred Owl, all of the Prothonotary Warblers, and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.
  • Jackie Brooks’ Yellow-billed Cuckoo, mayfly, 5 lined skink, people, and maroon camp implements.
  • Bob Mercer’s cottonmouth, spiders, and broad-headed skink.

Eastern Bluebird Houses for a Good Cause

My grandson’s 4th grade project is to raise money for the homeless people of Charleston. He is selling Eastern Bluebird houses in the Riverland Terrance neighborhood. My grandson, Leo, says this way we are providing shelter to both birds and people.

So far we have built eight in my shop. We have sold five and made an additional three for use on Seabrook Island for the Bluebird Society.

If anyone is interested in purchasing a bluebird house, please contact me using the link below.

Photos and Article Submitted by: Carl Voelker