Birds of a Feather Plus Friends Flock Together

Question:  The American Robins recently have arrived in flocks to my yard.  At the same time, Cedar Waxwings also came in mass.  All summer, I saw only occasional Blue Jays but their color is now interspersed with the Robins and Waxwings.  Why are these birds normally seen individually or not at all and suddenly they are here at the same time?  Submitted by Judy Morr

American Robin – Ed Konrad

It is not uncommon to see different species of birds flocking together in the fall and winter. At this time winter birds work together to find food that is sparse compared to the abundance available during the warmer months. The more eyes, the better for locating food sources. Recently, during one of the Early Morning Bird Walks at Caw Caw we noticed Cedar Waxwings and American Robins together in trees feeding on berries.

Cedar Waxwing – Ed Konrad

These two species are apparently common traveling partners in the fall and winter. Dozens of birds would fly up in mass to the next tree that looked promising for a better feed. There is no competing when there is a bounty of berries. It is interesting that Cedar Waxwings are social birds year round whereas American Robins know the benefits of grouping together during the cooler months, but become territorial in the spring during nesting season. For more information check out Robins and Waxwings in Winter and Summer Comparing Behaviors.  Agricultural fields, which are abundant around John’s Island, are another area that you might see mixed flocks feeding on grain and seeds remaining after the harvest. 

A single bird in a flock is also safer because there are many other birds to look out for predators, such as hawks or owls, as he eats or rests. A hawk cannot easily pick off a single bird crowded with others as they perch on power lines or in trees. I’m sure most people have noticed a hawk being chased away by a swarm of smaller birds. Interestingly you may also see a couple of Blue Jays together with Robins on a lawn during winter months. Blue Jays may raid a Robin’s nest for eggs or hatchlings during nesting season, but are more interested in acorns, seeds, and insects in fall and winter and are excellent alarms for incoming predators. 

Frigid nights will also bring birds together. A tight knit flock roosting in trees at night offers a greater defense from the cold winter weather. BirdNote, a wonderful short daily podcast, recently released 61 Tons of Robins! about how many American Robins were counted in Florida roosting together at night. 

So, it appears that birds engage in activities that are beneficial to their survival. Large numbers of birds and even different species will flock together in fall and winter when they are more vulnerable to the elements in order to locate food, keep warm, and stave off predators.  

Submitted by: Joleen Ardaiolo

Photos by: Ed Konrad


Birding App Recommendations


One of the best resources for bird watching has always been the many guides available in book  form. The Sibley Guide to Birds, Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, and Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America, as well as many others are referred to as field guides because you can carry them with you to identify birds in the field. These guides have pictures, information on habitat, and identifying clues regarding size, color, and sounds. So much valuable information and I read these guides like novels.

These days most people are never without their smart phones. Besides being used to communicate, these devices are mini computers that can also navigate and educate. There are apps available to download to your device for anything you can imagine and birdwatching is no exception. These birding apps have all the information of a field guide, plus some unique features like playing a bird’s call or recording the call to identify. There are apps that can identify a bird by a photo that you have taken with your smartphone or your camera and some apps will even use your birding information to add to their database for their research. 

Finding the apps that work for you may take some trial and error. Many of the people with whom I go birding use eBird by the Cornell Lab to keep their life list of bird species. This is an app from Cornell University that will use your data for research. It is amazing to go to their website to see how your information is used to show migration patterns of these birds. However, for identifying birds I use Audubon Bird Guide by the Audubon Bird Society. I can quickly search for a bird by even a partial name or bird type. This app will show me photos, a map of locations during the year, written description, and audios of the bird’s calls. This app will also search birds by descriptors, even though I do not use that feature on this app. If I want to identify a bird by descriptors I go to my Merlin app, also from The Cornell Lab. This app uses my location, date, size of bird, colors, and activity to make you a list of possibilities. This app can also use a downloaded photo to generate a list of possibilities. I have never had much success with photos that I have taken with my iPhone, but if use a decent camera, it works very well. 

All the apps mentioned above are free to download, but there are really excellent apps that are available for a one time fee that have even more features. With Bird Song Id USA Automatic Recognition & Reference for $4.99 you can apparently record a bird’s song to identify. Sibley’s Birds 2nd Edition at $19.99 is an app that I have been eyeing for a year. I have the paper field guide and love all the information it provides so I can only imagine that the app would be just as good. In fact, the new edition provides a not only the “compare” feature, but also a “similar to” feature to assist in identifying your subject!

My only complaint with using a smart phone as a field guide is that there is generally no WiFi in most areas that you will be birding and the glare on the screen sometimes makes it hard to see the photos. The information available through these apps is still incredible even if you only use them at home. 

Additionally, there are apps for bird lovers that are just fun. Dawn Chorus by Audubon is an app that lets you make a wake up alarm using a bird call chorus that you select.  Daily Bird is a day by day calendar that highlights a new bird each day with a short descriptor. 

Search “birding” in your tablet or smartphone app store and see if you might benefit from some of these apps. And let us know if you have a favorite birding app that others might enjoy!

Submitted by:  Joleen Ardaiolo

Learn to Identify Common Birds

Northern Cardinal – Charles Moore

With the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) coming up this weekend, the National Audubon Society wrote a great article on the common bird species you are likely to see at your feeders and in your backyards. Of the 15 birds they describe, there are nine we are likely to see in your backyard on Seabrook Island with one additional bird’s “cousin” and one found at the horse pasture. The remaining can also be seen in South Carolina, but not generally on Seabrook Island.

Read the article here!

How many can you name? Where do you see them? We hope you will join us on Sunday and/or Monday for our annual GBBC! And we hope you will record your sightings for the GBBC this weekend (and every day!) using

Love Birds in our Midst

It is only natural to conjure up romantic ideas about your bird families. If you have had the good fortune to watch a nest being built and hatchlings being tended by diligent bird parents you want to imagine that your avian family will live and love happily ever after. Where there is no indication that many offspring stay with their parents for long, there are several bird species couples that mate for life. 

Sadly for us romantics, there is no emotional attachment between bird pairs. Their bonds are driven by successfully producing offspring and even the ability to care for and protect their brood. And, if the bird couple does not successfully produce eggs, they will look for other mates. This keeps their species strong. 

Advantages of a long term relationship is that the couple may produce more than one brood in a season or even replace a brood that was attacked by predators or lost in a natural disaster. The attentive partner comes in handy for building the nest and feedings during the incubation period for the mate and the baby birds in the nest. This is most important for the larger birds and birds of prey where the nesting time is longer and there is the need for a large area to acquire food and keep the hatchings protected. A great birding basics article to check out about birds that mate for life is from The Spruce, Do Birds Mate For Life?. 

Northern Cardinal – Dean Morr

There are a number of species that we see often on Seabrook Island that will be celebrating Valentines Day as a couple. Probably the most familiar bird couple to anyone living east of the Mississippi is the Northern Cardinal. Even though you see large flocks in the winter it is common to see a mated pair together at your feeder where occasionally the male will feed the female a seed in a gesture that looks like a kiss. You may have also experienced a Northern Cardinal attacking his reflection on your car mirror or house window. This is that male protecting his female and their territory. 

Blue Jay – Ed Konrad

The male Blue Jay is another common bird in our area that, after being chosen by the female from a pool of a half dozen or more contenders, is loyal for life. The male is integral in the nesting season and the aggressive behavior that some many complain about is merely a loud bird protecting his family. 

Black Vultures


The Black Vultures that can be seen on top of the shops at Freshfields not only catch up with their mate for nesting season, but enjoy hanging out together all year round. When the male Black Vulture spots a prospective female, he chases her in flight and periodically dives at her. Annoying to some, but apparently this works for enticing the female Black Vulture. 

Bald Eagle on nest – C Moore

Our most beloved Bald Eagle is a raptor that finds a life mate. This pair also returns to the same territory and nest each year. If they successfully produce young at a nest they will go back year after year adding to that same nest. Some nests can end up weighing one or two tons.  Many on Seabrook Island can attest to that having seen the huge Bald Eagles nest on Bohicket Creek.

These are but a few examples of the species that will be celebrating Valentine’s Day together. According to an article in Bird Watchers Digest  Do Birds Mate for Life? and statistics from The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior 90% of all bird species are socially monogamous. There may be a little more about cheating in the Sibley’s statement, but we won’t go there since it’s Valentine’s Day.  ❤️

Submitted by:  Joleen Ardaiolo
Photo Credits: As noted

Winter Birding on North Beach

1 Learning Together in Search of Shorebirds
Learning Together in Search of Shorebirds – Ed Konrad

A group of seventeen hearty Seabrookers joined us last Friday morning, February 1st, for a bird walk on North Beach. Our part-time bird experts, Aija Konrad and Bob Mercer, led the group on a mile and half walk from the owners parking lot at Boardwalk #1 to the Kiawah River inlet on the 40-50’s partly sunny day. In total we saw 38 species of birds (see below), including the infamous American Oystercatcher U5 and mate who have made Seabrook Island their home for nearly five years, two Piping Plovers, four species of gulls which we were able to compare and contrast, and many others!

Thanks to all our members who came out for a fun and informative walk on the beach! We hope you will consider joining one of our upcoming events by viewing and signing up on our website .

1 Lesser Scaup
9 Bufflehead
6 Red-breasted Merganser
2 American Oystercatcher
3 Black-bellied Plover
22 Semipalmated Plover
2 Piping Plover
6 Ruddy Turnstone
25 Sanderling
40 Dunlin
1 Greater Yellowlegs
4 Willet
5 Bonaparte’s Gull
18 Ring-billed Gull
3 Herring Gull
1 Great Black-backed Gull
2 Caspian Tern
75 Forster’s Tern
65 Black Skimmer
8 Double-crested Cormorant
55 Brown Pelican
1 Great Blue Heron
2 Great Egret
1 Black Vulture
1 Turkey Vulture
1 Osprey
2 Red-shouldered Hawk
1 Belted Kingfisher
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
4 Blue Jay
11 American Crow
1 Carolina Wren
1 Northern Mockingbird
2 Savannah Sparrow
1 Song Sparrow
1 Pine Warbler
12 Yellow-rumped Warbler
3 Northern Cardinal

Maine’s Great Black Hawk Euthanized

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 3.04.19 PMAs some of you will recall, SIB member Karen O’Brien wrote an article back in December explaining how she was able to see a first time on record Great Black Hawk in her hometown of Portland, ME. This past week, Aija Konrad told a SIB audience at our evening program the Great Black Hawk was her Big Year bird # 575 on December 31, 2018. In early January, we learned the hawk had been found on the ground and taken to a bird rehabilitation center. We posted that story our SIB Facebook page and hoped it would recover.  Unfortunately, we have learned the great black hawk, native to Central and South America, could not be saved from frostbite damage to its feet and legs. Read more about this story here.


Seabrook Island Birders Starts New Year


A new year starts with a review of the prior year.  That presentation is now available on our web page.

On January 30, Ed and Aija Konrad amazed the 68 attendees of our first evening event of the year with their “Tales of a Big Year.”  A separate post will provide a more complete recap of that enjoyable evening.  Prior to the presentation, the organization approved the 2019 Executive Committee and Officers.

  • Seabrook Island Birders participated in the Christmas Bird Count on a foggy January 4.  More information can be found in our previous post or on our web page.
  • A “walk” down Jenkins Point on January 17 saw a dozen Roseate Spoonbills roosting over the lagoon.  The same area showed 22 Black-crowned Night-Heron.  29 additional species were also seen or heard.  A great start for the year
  • Also on January 17, a dozen SIB members learned more on how to use eBird to enter their sightings or find where to locate specific birds.
  • On January 22, a different type of activity was enjoyed…a movie matinee.  Thirteen members met at the Lakehouse to watch “The Big Year.”
  • The mist and drizzle on January 24 didn’t stop eight members from exploring the area around the club maintenance area and the water treatment facility.  A total of 41 species were observed that morning.

Check out our Activity Page to view and sign-up for our upcoming events.