SIB “Bird of the Week” – Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet  –  Regulus calendula
Length:  4.25″;  Wingspan:  7. 5″;  Weight:  0.23 oz.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – file photo

There are two good ways to identify the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. First, you might see it out of the corner of your eye. That’s because it flicks its wings and hops fairly continuously. You also might recognize it from its very distinctive call. The song sounds like an electric typewriter.

In pictures, he is often shown flaunting his bright red crown but that is much more the exception than the rule and only the male has the crest. Both the male and the female are greenish gray in color with a white eye ring and wing bars that resemble those of a non-breeding Goldfinch. We have those now on Seabrook but they are considerably bigger. It is the kinglet’s small size and jumpy nature that are the most likely to catch your attention.

The Ruby-crowned is a winter bird for us. It migrates primarily to Canada and Alaska to breed but is seen year-round in a few western states.

Cornell Labs lists this bird as one that comes to a feeder but the feeder should probably be in a woodsy or shrubby area. Here is what they recommend to attract them:

Food and feeders to attract Ruby-crowned Kinglets
Food and feeders to attract Ruby-crowned Kinglets

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

Article submitted by:  Marcia Hider/ reposted 09-2022
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad & file photos

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.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill – Platalea ajaja
Length:  32″; Wingspan: 50″; Weight: 52oz.

Roseate Spoonbill - Ed Konrad
Roseate Spoonbills – Ed Konrad

Hey everybody, did you see the flamingo in the marsh near the fire station? Fooled again! What you probably saw was the beautiful Roseate Spoonbill. Their bright pink coloring confuses many people who think they have spotted a Pink Flamingo. Flamingos are larger and have a short, thick, hooked bill and black on its wings.

If you are lucky enough to get a closer look at a Roseate Spoonbill, check out the long, flat, spoon shaped bill. Spoonbills feed by walking in shallow, muddy bottom water and tidal ponds foraging by sweeping their bill from side to side with it slightly open to sift up small fish, shrimp, mollusks and snails. To locate prey, Roseate Spoonbills have sensitive nerve endings and touch receptors in their bill, which they then snap closed to pull the prey out of the water. Similar to flamingos, Roseate Spoonbill’s pink color comes from the food it eats.

Spoonbills are very social birds and spend most of their time with other Spoonbills or in the company of other wading birds.  It is an unusual looking large wading bird with pink plumage, a long flat grayish spoon-shaped bill and an un-feathered greenish gray colored head which becomes golden buff during breeding. The neck, chest and upper back are white and the adult has beautiful red wing coverts. They have long red legs adapted to walking and wading in wetlands. They also have red eyes. Their nostrils are located at the top of the bill, making it possible for the bird to breathe while the bill is under water.

Roseate Spoonbills nest in colonies with Ibises, Storks, Cormorants, Herons and Egrets. Males and females pair off for the breeding season and build a nest together as the female builds the nest with material brought to her by the male. Their nests are built in trees typically 6-15 feet above the water. The nest is built of sticks lined with grass and leaves with a deep hollow in the center. The female lays 2-4 eggs, whitish with brown markings, and the chicks hatch in about 3 weeks. The new chicks fledge in 35-42 days and are fed by mom and dad until they are about 6-8 weeks old. Young birds have white feathers that have a slight pink tinge on their wings. They reach maturity at 3 years of age. The beaks of chicks are straight and the spoon-shape grows as the chick develops.  Nestlings are many times attacked and killed by Turkeys, Vultures, Bald Eagles, Raccoons and even Fire Ants.

Unlike herons, Spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched as you can see in the pictures below.

They reside along coastal Southeast US and West Indies through Mexico and Central America.

Plume hunters almost eliminated Spoonbills in the 1800’s when the wings of this beautiful creature were made into fans and their feathers for hats.  It’s ironic that they were hunted for their plumage: their feather color fades rapidly, so the colorful fans and hats made from their feathers didn’t last very long.  The biggest threat to Roseate Spoonbill population today is the loss of their habitat.  Due to increased human population, wetlands have either been drained or polluted forcing these birds to nest/live in much more vulnerable sites.  In addition, some populations show high levels of pesticide levels in their eggs but they do not appear to be significantly impaired by egg shell thinning at this time.

The oldest wild Roseate Spoonbill was discovered in the Florida Keys in 2006. The bird had been banded in 1990, and was an amazing 16 years old. The previous known longevity record for the species was 7 years.

A group of Roseate Spoonbills are collectively known as a “bowl” of Spoonbills.

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

 

Article submitted by: Flo Foley
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.

Bird of the week-Meet the Yellow-throated Warbler

Photo by David Etler

The Yellow-throated Warbler, Setophaga Dominica, is a common warbler in this area year round and breeds west to Texas and north as far as Illinois. They are part of the family of Wood Warblers or Parulidae.

If you are lucky enough to spot this stunning warbler, it is an easy bird to identify.  It has a bright yellow throat and chest with sharply contrasting black triangles through and below the eyes and bright white eyebrows. The back and top of head are gray with a white under-belly and two white wing bars. The Yellow-throated Warbler, besides having colorful markings, is also distinctive because of its stockier body and longer, sharp, black bill. The male and female are similar in appearance with the female being slightly duller. 

The Yellow-throated Warbler’s song is a clear series of down whistles with a rising note at the end as .  The male will actually establish his territory during breeding season with his song. 

These warblers will most likely be spotted in this area by looking higher up in a pine, live oak, or palm tree. They actively forage by quickly creeping in and out along branches and spiraling up and down trunks of trees. They probe deliberately into crevices, pine needles, pine cones, and Spanish moss looking for insects. This bird will creep instead of fluttering as some warblers do. In palm trees they might be spotted in the crowns or hanging upside down among the leaves. 

The diet of the Yellow-throated Warbler is mostly insects. They are insectivores and feed on beetles, moths, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, flies, mosquitoes, ants, aphids, and spiders. However, they will also come to your backyard feeders if you have the feeders in an area that is a desirable habitat for them and perhaps have a feed mix that includes fruit and/or dried mealworms. 

Once the male locates his territory and his mate, the male and female stay monogamous during the nesting season and produce two broods per year. The nest, prepared mostly by female, is either in a clump of Spanish moss or at the outer edge of a high pine branch. In the Spanish moss the female will form a pocket and line it with grasses, weeds, and feathers. On the pine branch, she will weave together weed stems, bark strips, and grasses to form a cup and then line it with plant down and feathers. She will lay 3 to 5 pale gray-green eggs with dark specks that are less than an inch long. Both the male and female incubates the eggs and feed the nestlings. The eggs incubates for 12 to 13 days and the young leave the nest in about 8 days. 

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Photo by David Etler

The new family will stay together during the breeding season and then become part of a mixed species flock with Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, and other warblers during non breeding season. 

Luckily for us, the Yellow-throated Warblers have increased their population by 50% between 1966 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight, and at this time are not a conservation concern.

Article Submitted by Joleen Ardaiolo

Reposted from 2019

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.

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

(submitted by:  Judy Morr)resubmitted by SI
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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.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher – Haematopus palliatus
Length:  17.5″; Wingspan: 32″; Weight: 22.4 oz.

American Oystercatcher - Ed Konrad
American Oystercatchers on beach with other Shorebirds – Ed Konrad

The American Oystercatcher is a large, boldly patterned bird we see at our beach and in salt marshes. It doesn’t appear in large groups, but is often seen in solitary pairs. As indicated by it’s name, it feeds on oysters, clams, mussels and uses it bright orange-red bill like an oyster shucking knife to open it’s prey. They also probe for and stab shellfish or they carry loose shells out of the water and hammer them open with their bills.

The oystercatcher has a large black head and a large red bill. It’s back is dark brown and it’s underside is white. It has stout, dull-pink legs and a bold white stripe in it’s wings and rump when in flight. When they fly, they call loudly in a whistled “wheep.”

Oystercatchers are usually in small numbers and fairly solitary or in small family groups. Cape Romain, up the coast, has the largest wintering population of oystercatchers in the world. One winter we observed a group of 93 near the oyster beds by the Kiawah River Bridge! There are several thousand in the US and most of them breed in the Mid-Atlantic. They are an “indicator species”. This means that they can only thrive in estuaries where the water is clean. If you have a healthy population of oystercatchers, then you have oysters and the water is clean.

Oystercatchers are shy birds and sensitive to human disturbance. Their nests are a scrape in a shallow depression on the sand just above the high tide line. They line it with shells, pebbles and tide wrack and lay 1-4 eggs. Solitary pairs are known to nest at Deveaux Bank. Recently, SC DNR banded 2 young birds at Botany Bay plantation, a first at that location for the banders!

An interesting Seabrook fact is that for the past four years there has been a banded oystercatcher on our beach “U5”. We have seen him on many occasions, as have other bird watchers, and it is always fun to see that he is still around. He was banded at Little Egg Island, GA, just north of Little St Simons Island. You can observe U5 usually near the “highway” between the protected area and the cut.

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

Article submitted by:  Aija Konrad
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.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
Length:  15.7 – 19.3″; Wingspan: 26 – 29.5″; Weight: 8.8 – 12.3 oz.

This bird is the largest woodpecker on Seabrook Island with a long neck, mostly black with white stripes on the face and a flaming-red triangular crest that sweeps off the back of the head. The bill is long and chisel-like, about the length of the head. Males have a red stripe on the cheek. In flight, the wings are broad and the bird can seem crow-like.

Pileated Woodpeckers feed mostly on ants and other insects, but also will eat fruits and nuts. Carpenter ants may be up to 60% of diet and they also eat other ants (rarely digging into anthills on ground), termites, larvae of wood-boring beetles and other insects. About one-quarter of the diet may be wild fruits, berries, and nuts.  They also like to feed on suet, as you can see from this video below:

Pileated Woodpeckers drill distinctive rectangular-shaped holes in rotten wood to get at carpenter ants and other insects. They are loud birds with whinnying calls. They also drum on dead trees in a deep, slow, rolling pattern, and even the heavy chopping sound of foraging carries well. Their flight undulates like other woodpeckers, which helps separate them from a crow’s straight flight path.

The Pileated Woodpecker is common to Seabrook Island and is said to be seen often pecking on the dead branches of the live oak behind the POA office.  They are also frequently seen and heard along the golf courses.

A group of Pileated Woodpeckers are collectively known as a “crown” of woodpeckers.

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

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photographs provided by:  Charles Moore & 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.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Green Heron

Green Heron – Butorides virescens
Length:  18″; Wingspan: 26″; Weight: 7 oz.

Green Heron on the hunt - Ed Konrad
Green Heron on the hunt – Ed Konrad

A relatively common sight on Seabrook Island, the green heron is a dark, stocky bird that appears to hunch over on slender legs, often at the edge of a pond, marsh or stream. Seen up close or through binoculars, it is a distinctive bird with a velvety green-gray back, a brownish burgundy body and a dark cap often raised into a short crest. Its broad, rounded wings are dark grey, and its legs are a bright yellow. In flight, the green heron’s extended neck gives it a front-heavy, ungainly appearance.

The green heron feeds on small fish, crustaceans, frogs, tadpoles or aquatic insects. Sometimes the bird will ‘bait’ its prey, dropping twigs or feathers on the surface of the water as lures. The bird crouches motionless in the shallow water waiting for its prey to approach, then uses its long, straight dagger like beak to snatch up its food when it is within striking distance.

Green herons prefer to nest as isolated pairs or in small groups. The nesting site is usually in a shrub or tree 5-30’ above the ground, but occasionally herons will nest on the ground. Nests are platforms made of sticks: the male will begin nest construction, and then the female takes over while the male continues to forage for building materials for her.

Female herons will lay as few as 3 and up to 7 eggs at a time. Incubation is by both sexes and lasts 19-21 days. Both parents feed the young by regurgitation. Young herons begin to climb out and around the nest 16-17 days after hatching and will make first test flights at 21-23 days. Herons produce 1-2 broods per year.

Green herons are sometimes difficult to detect because of their dark plumage which helps them to blend into shaded areas and vegetation along the water’s edge. Their harsh call along with slow beats of rounded wings and an ‘unfolded’ neck in flight are good clues to the observer that you have spied a green heron!

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

Article submitted by:  Lyn Magee/resubmitted 2022 by SIB
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.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey – Meleagris gallopavo
Length:  46″; Wingspan: 64″; Weight: 259 oz.

A strutting tom turkey tries to attract a mate. C. Moore
A strutting tom turkey tries to attract a mate. C. Moore

Residents are reporting an increase in sightings of Eastern Wild Turkeys on Seabrook Island. The domesticated version of this large native game bird is well known because of its role each Thanksgiving day. Millions of turkeys are drawn from an outline of the hands of elementary children prior to Thanksgiving each year.

The turkey would have been our national bird if Benjamin Franklin had had his say. He thought the eagle was beautiful but a lazy thief as it frequently stole its dinner from the industrious Osprey.

Native Americans first domesticated the wild turkey hundreds of years ago. Spanish explorers took turkeys domesticated by the Aztecs back to Europe around 1500. The pilgrims brought turkeys across the Atlantic to the New World only to find them already here. These European settlers called them “Turkey birds” because they looked like African guinea hens from Turkey and the name stuck.

The wild turkey population in the southeastern U.S. was decimated from 1900 to the 1950’s due to hunting, pesticide usage (DDT) and habitat loss. During this period, the only wild turkeys remaining in South Carolina occurred in the Francis Marion National Forest and along the Savannah River.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the National Wild Turkey Federation launched one of the nation’s most successful conservation restocking programs during the 1950’s. Descendants of these few remaining turkeys abound today in all of South Carolina’s 46 counties and in every Southeastern state. Wild Turkeys are hunted in 49 of the 50 states with Alaska being the only exception.

Large males are called toms, weigh between 10 and 24 pounds and mature females, called hens, weigh between 5 and 10 pounds. Mating behavior begins in early spring with Toms attracting potential hens through gobbling and strutting about with their feathers puffed out, tail feathers spread, wings dragging on the ground and making low “drumming sounds”. The gobbling may be heard more than a mile away. A dominant Tom may attract eight to 10 hens to his harem.

Turkeys nest on the ground in shallow dirt depressions surrounded with woody vegetation. In South Carolina, laying of eggs begins in March and a clutch may contain as many as 18 eggs.  Eggs hatch in 28 days and the hatchlings are out of the nest looking for food within 24 hours. Hatchlings are called poults and adolescents are jakes

Turkeys sleep in trees but spend most of their time on the ground searching for food. They can run nearly as fast as a human track star at 25 miles an hour and may fly distances up to half a mile reaching speeds up to 50 miles an hour.

Wild turkeys are omnivores eating seeds, nuts, roots, berries, grasses, insects, small amphibians and reptiles. They are most active and feed primarily in the early morning and late afternoon.

Foxes, opossums, raccoons, skunks, snakes and many other animals pray on the eggs and poults. Predators of adult wild turkeys include foxes, coyotes, bobcats and large raptors such as eagles, owls and hawks.

Domestic turkeys are genetically distinct from wild birds. Ever wonder why domestic turkeys are white? Domesticated turkeys are bred to have white feathers because their pinfeathers are less visible when the carcass is dressed. Whereas, domestication has resulted in bigger, heavier birds with more breast meat, their natural survival skills have been greatly diminished. The wild turkey is a savvy, very wary, and intelligent bird whereas their domesticated relatives, well lets say, their elevators don’t go all the way to the top.

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

Article submitted by:  Charles Moore
Photographs provided by:  Charles Moore

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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